Managing Paul Kagame, Africa’s Enfant Terrible

Image: Flickr

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 30 March 2014.

South Africa is conducting a fairly delicate struggle with Rwanda, trying to choreograph and coordinate complex moves to manage the difficult and dangerous President Paul Kagame – on the hard streets of Johannesburg, in the polite halls of diplomacy, in the courts of law, and, by proxy, on the field of battle.

On Tuesday this week the terrain of this struggle moved to multilateral diplomacy in Luanda, where President Jacob Zuma once again attended a summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). South Africa is not a member of this body, but Zuma has become a sort of country member, having been invited to the last few summits as a special guest. » More

India: Jostling for Geopolitical Control in Afghanistan

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published by openSecurity on 27 March 2014.

There is increasing anxiety among stakeholders as US forces prepare for a drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The international community, including the United States, is still groping in the dark when it comes to Afghanistan’s future. As such, they have somewhat ignored India, which, in fact, will be pivotal in solving the Afghan dilemma. Instead, the west and regional stakeholders have focussed on Pakistan as the major player in post-2014 Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and of providing sanctuary to them inside Pakistan in order to maintain strategic depth and influence within Afghanistan. Furthermore, Pakistan has been charged with supporting the Afghan Taliban and their affiliate, the Haqqani network, in order to counter India in Afghanistan, as well as of sending militant groups such as Laskhar-e-Taiba into Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan has denied these accusations. » More

Why 2014 in Asia Will Not be a Repeat of 1914 in Europe

Photo: Jectre/flickr.

The Jeremiah prophets are coming out of the woodwork to predict that there will be an outbreak of war between the major powers in Asia, just like in Europe 100 years ago. The idea is that a rising China will inevitably go to war with the United States, either directly or through conflict with Japan.

Some commentators are even suggesting that the Sarajevo incident that provoked World War I will be replicated between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has likened this situation to what he calls ‘a 21st-century maritime redux of the Balkans a century ago — a tinderbox on water’. My colleague Hugh White recently proclaimed that the risk of war between China and Japan is now very real. » More

Mediation Perspectives: The Tunisian National Dialogue

Photo: Magharebia/Wikimedia commons.

The adoption of a new Tunisian constitution at the end of January has been hailed as a major milestone in the country’s democratic transition and a welcome piece of good news amid concerns about the direction of transition processes in other countries in the region.

From a mediation perspective, the national dialogue process that brought Tunisia to this point is noteworthy for at least two reasons. First, the mediators in this case were insiders with a stake in the outcome. Second, changes in context, beyond the control of either party, significantly altered the strategic calculations of the negotiators and opened the window to an agreement. » More

War Is a Video Game and We’re Losing

Photo: David Hoffmann/flickr.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 20 March 2014.

It is often said that the rise of military robotics and cyber warfare is turning war into a “videogame.” But this thesis—which blames technology for a supposed loss of moral seriousness about war—gets the causation wrong. It isn’t bloodless technology that really makes war videogame-like. Rather, videogames are simple and deterministic in that they mirror the ways a cross-section of national security experts think about war. It seems that as hard as we try to be treat war as “tragic, inefficient, and uncertain,” we end up getting our military analysis from the same mental place that’s engaged by a shopping trip to GameSpot. We might as well use this to our advantage by diversifying our unconscious war(games) rather than playing the same titles over and over again.One of the most common tropes in both military analysis and popular culture is the danger of war becoming a “videogame.” From Matthew Broderick’s “game” with a military supercomputer in WarGames to Robert Gates’ recent criticism of drone warfare, there is a strong tendency to equate technology with both dehumanization as well as an overly stilted and abstract view of conflict. While this sort of rhetoric is primarily deployed to critique drones and other standoff technologies, it also is used to bash mathematical or computational methods of analysis. Quoth Gates:

For too many people—including defense “experts,” members of Congress, executive branch officials and ordinary citizens—war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless. But my years at the Pentagon left me even more skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain.

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