Nation-Building: A Forgotten Aspect of the Vietnam War

South Vietnamese Lt. General Ngo Quang Truong honors American soldiers. Image: tommy japan/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Defence-In-Depth on 8 December 2014.

While the debate over American strategy in the Vietnam War has been long and bitter, it has also been strangely constricted. This stems in part from the fact it has largely been an anguished dialogue among Americans searching for the reasons which underlay their nation’s defeat. This means that a lot of research into the Vietnam War ultimately seems to boil down to a search for villains – be they firepower-mad generals, feckless politicians, or corrupt and incompetent local allies. » More

Post-Big Bang Expansion, is EU Overcorrecting with the Western Balkans?

EU – Kosovo – wall painting outside Peje (Pec), Kosovo. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Friends of Europe on 25 November, 2014.

“Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door”

Bob Dylan

The perspective of joining the European family has proven to be the most effective mobilising factor to stabilise and reform the Balkans. It’s replaced the dark scenario of conflicts sparked by efforts to redraw borders along ethnic lines. It has undoubtedly been the EU’s most powerful geopolitical instrument, the latest illustration being the brokered Belgrade-Pristina agreement. Before the process reached the point of no return, however, the enlargement policy has been challenged, accession hopes dangerously watered down and the door slammed shut, for now. » More

“Boots On Our Ground, Please!”: The Army in the Pacific

US Marine Corps General John Paxton in conversation with US Army General Vincent Brooks. Image: Cpl. Tia Dufour/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 26 November 2014.

“It’s great to be someplace where ‘boots on the ground’ is not an insult.” With these words, Secretary of the Army John McHugh kicked-off last month’s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting. He continued, to raucous applause, that the United States is, as President Obama termed it, “the indispensable nation,” and that, “we are the indispensible Army of that indispensible nation.”

Good meat and potatoes stuff for an Army crowd, but Secretary McHugh’s words tend to fall on deaf ears outside the medal-bedecked battalions assembled within the AUSA convention hall. Does anyone else share Secretary McHugh’s views? As the Army defines itself for the future, how does it make sure “boots on the ground” is a compliment rather than an insult, and how does it remain “an indispensible Army”? » More

The Foreign Policy Essay: The Fault Lines in China’s New Empire

Cadets of the Peoples LIberation Army. Image: US Department of Defense/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Lawfare Blog on 9 November 2014.

Editor’s Note: Under President Xi Jinping, China appears more aggressive and dictatorial: a worrisome combination as China’s wealth makes it more influential and helps it build a stronger military. Drawing on her piece in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that Xi’s “China Dream” is not coming to pass: his attempt to transform the country is encountering resistance, and the resulting divisions and weaknesses are likely to limit Beijing’s influence in the years to come.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is attempting to reform—even revolutionize—political and economic relations within China as well as between China and the rest of the world. He has articulated a vision for China that is well encapsulated in his “China Dream,” or the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation. In practical terms, this means Xi Jinping himself is at the top of a strong Communist Party, at the forefront of the political system, in command of a robust and innovative Chinese economy, and fostering an expansive foreign policy in which all roads lead to Beijing. It is a Chinese empire with socialist characteristics. » More

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

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