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

On Religion and Violence

Jihadists carrying rockets.

Masked Palestinian militants with homemade rockets in the outskirts of Gaza City. Image: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/Flickr

This article was originally published by Contending Modernities, a blog hosted by the University of Notre Dame, on 25 November, 2014. It is part of Contending Modernities’ “Deadly Violence and Conflict Transformation” series.

The rise of ISIL and the so-called Islamic State in 2014 has given prominence to discussions of religious violence in the media, with much emphasis placed on questions of the relationship between Islam and violence. In his speech to the nation on 10 September 2014, President Obama restated his longstanding view that no one who commits violent atrocities in the name of religion can be considered an authentic believer. Similarly, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium affirms that in the face of “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Others, however, have responded negatively to such statements, citing, violence in the Qur’an, religious leaders who have promoted violence, and contemporary and historical cases of religious violence linked to Islam. » More

The New Nuance in Chinese Diplomacy

Chinese flag with Dollar signs. Image: Magalie l’Abbé/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 24 November, 2014.

Much energy has been expended on projecting the impact of the rise of Chinese economic power on its political and military might and the strategic contest with the United States. In a conflation of geo-economic and geo-strategic analysis, two camps have emerged: one warns about the consequences of the United States not conceding strategic space as Chinese economic and strategic power continue to grow; the other asserts the continuing dominance of US military-strategic and economic power as Chinese power peaks, in some scenario or another. As the nuance in Chinese diplomacy over the past week or two suggests, the geo-political and economic world would appear a tad more complex than either camp allows. » More

Book Review: The Violence of the Image: Photography and International Conflict, edited by Liam Kennedy and Caitlin Patrick

Famous photographer James Nachtwey in the documentary movie “War Photographer”. Image: Christian Frei Switzerland/Flickr

This book review was originally published by LSE Review of Books on 10 November, 2014.

Recognizing the evolution of the nature of war, this book examines the role of photojournalism in representations of violence that accompany various modern and contemporary conflicts. The book, stretching eleven chapters, surveys the depictions of violence in photographic practice under (post-)colonial, complex humanitarian and cosmopolitan frameworks. Of note is the diversity of authors and the array of disciplinary lenses they represent. The book is relevant within a range of subjects as well as to practitioners. » More

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A Legal Precipice? The DPRK-Uganda Security Relationship

Traditional craft of the Ugandan flag. Image: Flickr

This article was originally published by 38 North on 13 November, 2014.

Uganda and North Korea are two countries which few would immediately identify as natural partners. Yet on October 29, 2014, Kim Yong Nam, Chairman of the Presidium of the DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly, arrived in Kampala to a hero’s welcome. Over four days, Kim met with the Ugandan President, Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister amongst others, and had a state banquet thrown in his honor.

Kim’s visit comes as part of a longer African tour to the handful of countries on the continent where the DPRK still has a noteworthy foothold. Many of them are known or suspected to be long-time military customers, and bolstering ties will have been on the agenda for each stop. The reported purpose of the Uganda visit was to enhance security cooperation specifically. As noted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, bilateral relations in this area have spanned decades. Military training and weapons transfers were facilitated by Pyongyang during the Cold War. Today, Kampala has made a conscious effort to publicly discuss the more benign nature of cooperation with Pyongyang, making sure to add that, while it has nothing to hide, Uganda’s foreign relations are no one’s business. Venturing close to the grey areas of sanctions-relevant activity, DPRK-Uganda cooperation nevertheless merits further scrutiny. » More

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