Drone Strikes in Pakistan: Laser or Blunderbuss?

American soldier operates an Umanned Aerial Vehicle. Image: U.S Army/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 16 October, 2014.

As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, following an 11 October attack in the Khyber region, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that only a minuscule proportion of those killed have been identified by available records as members of al-Qaeda. This calls into question the claim last year by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.

The bureau’s Naming the Dead project has gathered the names and, where possible, details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004, drawing on a year of research within and outside Pakistan and a multitude of sources. The latter include Pakistani government records leaked to the bureau and hundreds of open-source reports in English, Pashtun and Urdu, as well as field investigations by bureau researchers and other organisations, including Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict. » More

The Bildt-Sikorski-Effect

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorsi. Image: Platforma Obywatelska RP/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 12 October 2014.

The departure of Carl Bildt and Radoslaw Sikorski as foreign ministers of Sweden and Poland respectively is an interesting development for European foreign policy. The timing is awful. At a moment when Europe is faced with crises in the east and the south, Europe can ill afford to lose either its most experienced statesmen or the vision they bring to the table. Both leaders simultaneously believe in the strategic necessity of the EU and they are as comfortable in Washington as they are at home in Warsaw or Stockholm. With Bildt and Sikorski gone, the EU is also lacking any obvious hardliners on Russia. This may satisfy some in the EU but surely Vladimir Putin must be pleased with their replacements. » More

If You Liked Vietnam, You’ll Love the War With the Islamic State

Helicopter patrol over the Mekong Delta. Image: Manhai/Flickr

This article was originally published by Small Wars Journal on 12 September, 2014.

Vietnam analogies are often overused, particularly by people who want to stay out of a proposed war or get us out of one we are fighting. Although I agree that the Islamic State, or whatever it is calling itself this week, must be dealt with militarily; the strategy with which the Obama administration is going about it is deeply disturbing and its basic elements bring vividly to mind the War in Vietnam which began in earnest when I was in the Tenth Grade; American involvement did not end until I was a senior Marine Corps First Lieutenant in 1973. I am not yet senile enough to have forgotten key details. » More

China’s “Historical Evidence”: Vietnam’s Position on South China Sea

Propaganda poster for Vietnam's maritime claim over the Paracel and Spratly Islands

Ngo Quang Minh/flickr

This article was originally published by RSIS on 27 August, 2014.

In their joint RSIS Commentary entitled “South China Sea Disputes: China has evidence of Historical Claims”, Dr Li Dexia and researcher Tan Keng Tat asserted that “China’s territorial claim is based on centuries of verifiable historical records, long-term use, treaties, international/customary laws plus records from the prodigious sea voyages of the Yuan and Ming dynasties”. I argue, however, that these evidences are unconvincing in the framework of international law. » More

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The US and Nuclear Weapons: A Turning of the Tide?

Peacekeeper missile after silo launch, Vandenberg AFB, CA.

USAF/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Strategist (ASPI) on 27 August, 2014.

Given the intensity of media focus on a series of crises this year—Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Ebola, and the South China Sea to name just a few—readers may be forgiven for having failed to notice that another important, though more incremental, development has also occurred. With each passing month it becomes clearer that a mood of nuclear realism is unfolding in US strategic policy. While President Obama is still remembered most clearly in the public mind for the anti-nuclear language in his Prague speech of 2009, a string of events in 2013–14 suggest that a shift of emphasis is occurring in relation to nuclear weapons. » More

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