After April Stalemate, Could Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement Rise Again?

Protesters in Hong Kong during the “Umbrella Revolution”. Image: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 May 2015.

With Hong Kong’s April reform package to elect a new chief executive in 2017 falling far short of creating genuine universal suffrage, and doing little to bridge the region’s political divides, the battle between the government and pro-democracy supporters for hearts and minds has been revived. The “umbrella” movement that caught the world’s attention last year could therefore resurface in the coming weeks and months.

By strictly following an August 2014 decision made by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), the April package angered pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council—the so-called “pan-democrats” who supported the street-based umbrella movement—who want to preserve the region’s autonomy as part of the “one country, two systems” model. » More

How the Military Can Keep its Edge: Don’t Offset — Hedge

SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. Image: skeeze/Pixabay

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 29 April, 2015.

The current debate about how the U.S. military can maintain its technological superiority is dominated by offset strategies — use of an asymmetric advantage to mitigate an adversary’s advantage. The elegance and efficacy of prior offset strategies makes them attractive as a reference point. But given the United States’ current and future strategic circumstances might a hedging strategy be more effective? » More

Guatemala Prosecutes a President, but Progress Falters

Cartoon image of Efraín Rios Montt (front) and President Ronald Reagan (back). Image: Truthout.org/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenSecurity on 29 April, 2015.

Barring hurricanes, landslides and the occasional drug trafficking story, Guatemala doesn’t often reach our newspapers or TV screens. But in spring 2013, this small Central American country made the headlines when it put its former president on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges against General Efraín Ríos Montt and his Intelligence Chief, General Rodríguez Sanchez, were based on a military campaign in 1982-3 that targeted indigenous Mayan civilians. This was not a case of rogue troops, but sophisticated and brutal social engineering thinly masked as counter-insurgency against leftist rebels. Unlike Yugoslavia and Rwanda however, Guatemala was not given an international tribunal, or even a ‘hybrid’ war crimes court like Sierra Leone or Bosnia. Instead, justice came only 30 years later and from the most unlikely of places: an official state tribunal. » More

‘Hybrid War’ and ‘Little Green Men’: How It Works, and How It Doesn’t

Masked soldiers in Crimea. Image: E. Arrott/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 16 April 2015. It is an excerpt from E-IR’s Edited Collection “Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives”.

When Russian special forces seized Crimea at the end of February 2014, without their insignia, but with the latest military kit, it seemed as the start of a new era of warfare. Certainly, the conflict in Ukraine has demonstrated that Moscow, in a bid to square its regional ambitions with its sharply limited resources, has assiduously and effectively developed a new style of ‘guerrilla geopolitics’ which leverages its capacity for misdirection, bluff, intelligence operations, and targeted violence to maximise its opportunities. However, it is too soon to declare that this represents some transformative novelty, because Moscow’s Ukrainian adventures have not only demonstrated the power of such ‘hybrid’ or ‘non-linear’ ways of warfare, but also their distinct limitations. » More

Focusing Like a Laser Beam on Directed Energy

Soviet Ground-based Laser. Image: Edward L. Cooper/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 14 April, 2015.

Advocates have long argued that directed energy weapons — including high energy lasers, high power microwaves, and other radiofrequency technologies — may carry substantial operational advantages for U.S. forces. None other than Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has called high energy lasers an example of the “fantastic, potentially game changing new technologies that we can more quickly get into the force,” and one candidate for the new “offset” strategy pursued by the Department of Defense. In principle, directed energy weapons can provide offensive and defensive non-kinetic attack options, serve as cost-effective force multipliers, and provide operational flexibility to the warfighter.

In parallel, skeptics point to a lengthy track record of overhyped promises and system underperformance. They note that the large-scale, high-profile developments of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s — programs such as the airborne, ground-based, or space-based lasers — were not only costly but ultimately failed to transition into the U.S. arsenal. They often argue that technically credible, operationally usable, and policy friendly directed energy weapons have been more the province of science fiction than reality. » More

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