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Health or Defense

Obama signs health care act

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House. Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons.

Obamacare, now in its awkward early stages of implementation, is the American military’s ticket home. The completion of the last element in America’s welfare state –the last strand of the social safety net—is likely to end the security welfare system America provides for its allies.

There are four basic components to the welfare state: workman’s compensation (which covers job caused disability), unemployment insurance, old age insurance, and health care insurance.  Workman’s compensation in the US was accomplished early in the 20th Century by the states. Retirement (known as Social Security in the US) and unemployment insurance were enacted in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms. Opposition from the American Medical Association, the physicians’ lobby, prevented President Roosevelt from including health care in his reform package, and its enactment became an enduring Democrat Party quest. » More

From Russia without Love: Russia Resumes Weapons Sales to China

Sukhoi Su-35S

Sukhoi Su-35S. Photo: Alex Beltyukov/Wikimedia Commons.

In March 2013, Russian and Chinese media reported that Beijing was acquiring significant quantities of advanced military equipment from Russia. Among the multi-billion dollar systems to be bought by the Chinese military are six Lada-class attack submarines and 35 SU-35 fighter jets. These acquisitions are significant because they are sophisticated systems and it has been more than a decade since China purchased any significant weapon systems from Moscow.

After making substantial purchases from Russia from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, China began to reverse engineer weapons such as the SU-27 multirole fighter, the NORINCO T-90 tank, and several components of its most advanced conventionally powered submarines. Occasionally, China legally purchased licensing rights to Russian systems. Achieving self-reliance in military technology has long been a major priority of China s defense policy. » More

China as a Major Arms Exporter: Implications for Southeast Asia

Chinese Type 99 Battle Tank on Display at the Beijing Military Museum, August 2007, courtesy of Max Smith/Wikimedia Commons

An article in the New York Times on 20 October 2013 highlighted China’s emergence as a major exporter of advanced weapons systems. The global arms market has traditionally been dominated by a handful of mostly Western suppliers: the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and, increasingly, Israel.

Now, however, China appears to be mounting some serious competition to this cabal, with its ability to offer increasingly sophisticated weaponry at rock-bottom prices. According to the NYT, this catalogue includes Predator-like armed drones, air-defence systems similar in capabilities to the Patriot missile, and perhaps even stealth fighter jets. » More

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Indonesia and the Next Defence White Paper

Australian national flag

Australian national flag during sunset close to Halmahera Island, Indonesia. Photo: Australian Department of Defence/flickr.

The Abbott government has promised to write a new Defence White Paper within 18 months, and one of the key challenges it will face is considering the place of Indonesia in Australian defence thinking. As the fear of a direct Indonesian threat retreats into the past, it is being replaced by a view of Indonesia as a potential ‘buffer’ separating Australia from the vagaries of the East Asian system. But when the new government considers Australia’s defence options in the next century, it’d do well to remember that Indonesia gets a vote in the role it plays in defending Australia.

Historically, Indonesia has comprised an important, though unclear, element in Australia’s strategic environment. When Australia looks at its neighbourhood in isolation, Indonesia’s proximity and strategic potential makes it appear as a liability. But if the lens is widened to encompass the entire Asia-Pacific strategic system, a strong Indonesia looks more like an asset. During the Cold War Australia’s security concerns about Indonesia revolved around threats associated with Konfrontasi, communism and state collapse, with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Sukarno regime menacing briefly in 1965. But as early as the 1970s, Defence was also conducting studies of possible regional contingencies which involved Indonesia as an ally in achieving regional security. So recognition of our mutual strategic interests coexisted with security concerns about Indonesia. » More

Asia’s Game Without Frontiers

Chinese and Pakistan border guards at Khunjerab Pass, Karakoram Highway. Source: A. Maw / Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI – Nowadays, many people seem to be more relaxed than ever about nationality, with the Internet enabling them to forge close connections with distant cultures and people. But states remain extremely sensitive about their borders’ inviolability. After all, territory – including land, oceans, air space, rivers, and seabeds – is central to a country’s identity, and shapes its security and foreign policy.

States can respond to territorial disputes either by surrendering some aspects of sovereignty, thus weakening their power and influence, or by adopting a more robust national-defense strategy aimed at fending off current challenges and precluding future threats. Today, many Asian countries are choosing the latter option.

Consider the territorial disputes roiling the Indian Ocean and other East Asian regions, sparked by China’s repeated – and increasingly assertive – efforts to claim sovereignty over vast maritime areas. As China’s incursions reignite long-smoldering disagreements and threaten to destabilize the regional status quo, countries throughout Asia are reconsidering their strategic positions.

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