Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read “The Art of War”

Sun Tzu. Frank Williams /Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published by LSE Review of Books on 10 January 2015.

“As yin and yang are at once interconnected, interpenetrating, and interdependent in an uninterrupted manner, the polarity of the situation essentially rests in them (or the yin-yang continuum).” (p. 16)

Whenever an individual undergoes a new experience there is a point that is known as the light bulb moment. This occurs when the individual moves from participating in an experience to understanding the experience. In other words, a richer and deeper involvement is gained post-light bulb moment. It is likely that reading Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read the Art of War by Derek Yuen is very much a light bulb moment for commentators on Western strategic thought, as the quote at the start of this review highlights the secret of the Chinese dialectical system and why it is predisposed to strategic thinking. » More

Why Are European Leaders So Afraid of Greece’s Syriza Party?

Alexis Tzirpas. Thierry Ehrmann/flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 9 January, 2015.

The calling of a snap election in Greece for January 25 has been met with great concern in political circles, prompted direct interventions by top European officials and alarmed markets and credit rating agencies.

This is all because Syriza, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, is being tipped to win the election. It is currently the largest opposition party in the Greek parliament and consistently leads the polls as the vote approaches.

According to the latest polls Syriza’s vote share could stretch anywhere between 36% to 40%, with the centre-right New Democracy trailing by at least three percentage points. Anything above 36% gives Syriza not only an electoral victory but an outright governing majority in the Greek parliament because the winning party is automatically handed a 50-seat bonus in the 300-seat parliament.

Opponents claim that Syriza would renege on Greece’s international obligations if it came to power and that efforts to reform the country would be halted. Political instability would ensue and the eurozone would again be plunged into crisis. Talk of Greece leaving the euro has been particularly prominent of late. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Inspired, Networked & Directed – The Muddled Jihad of ISIS & Al Qaeda Post Hebdo

Place de la Bastille in Paris during a demonstration in memory of the journalists killed in a terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Laurent Tine/flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 12 January, 2015.

The jihadi movement may have finally become what its original luminaries always wanted it to be – and in Paris of all places. The amorphous connections between the Charlie Hebdo attackers, the Kouachi brothers – who attributed their actions to “al Qaeda in Yemen” – and kosher market attacker Amedy Coulibali – who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a recently released online video – may reflect exactly what some early jihadi strategists intended: broad based jihad via a loose social movement. Terrorism researchers, obsessed with the writings of their academic adversary in jihad, Abu Musab al Suri, have for years suggested the social movement approach represented the ultimate vision of al Qaeda’s founding leadership. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Şaban Kardaş: “Central Country? Turkish Foreign Policy in a Tumultuous Middle East”

Source: Flickr/UNHCR

What has become of Turkey’s so-called ‘Zero Problems’ foreign policy? What should we think about the country’s evolving role as a regional actor?  And when we ask the latter question, which region are we actually talking about?   These questions were the focus of a recent discussion, sponsored by the Center for Security Studies, with Dr. Şaban Kardaş, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara.

Dr. Kardaş argued that in order to answer these questions properly, we must understand the notion of Turkey as a ‘central’ country or power.  In other words, we must recognize that Turkey’s geography and history seem to demand that Ankara play a leading role in its region. What Dr. Kardaş meant by a ‘region’, however, turned out to be quite expansive indeed.   » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Chinese Special Operations Forces: Not Like “Back at Bragg”

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Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 1 January 2015.

The PLA’s special forces: secrets revealed,” promised Want China Times, a Taiwan-based English-language website. The article describes China’s “10 major special operations forces, each with its own unique characteristics and code names” and was based on a translation of an earlier blog posting on the PLA Daily website with photos and descriptions of several People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) special operations units. » More

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