Thursday, September 30, 2010

Leave Out the "China"

Those who have been following the news, not only in the last few weeks but for the last few years, know that Beijing has been doing a considerable amount of saber rattling at sea. In fact, China claims the entire South China Sea as sovereign territory. Well, I say we launch a simple campaign to resist Chinese encroachment on the international waters off her coast. Instead of calling them the "East China Sea" and the "South China Sea", why not simply the "East Sea" and "South Sea"? They don't belong to China, so why should we pretend they do? (Admittedly, there will be some confusion with the southern half of the Pacific Ocean, once known as the South Sea or Seas. But that's a bit of an archaic usage, so I think we can manage.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Turkey's New Role in the World

An excellent article in today's FT raises a question which has been on the minds of many analysts of international affairs: Turkey's evolving role on the global stage.

The basic conundrum is this: is Turkey's growing confidence and departure from the American playbook a good thing or a bad thing? I submit that, by and large, it is a good thing.

I am indebted to George Kennan for pointing out that the US does not need to conquer the world; we simply need to prevent the bad guys from doing so. Thus, he argued that multiple centers of power were perfectly acceptable, so long as no more than one was Soviet. Indeed, encouraging other centers of power could be a good thing, diluting the Soviet share of the total.

Today the Soviets are no longer with us, thankfully, but threats remain from China, Russia and Islamist terrorism. Turkey can serve as a rival to all three. Thus, while I would like to see Turkey maintain good relations with the US, Greece and Israel, I welcome Turkish involvement in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucus region and Central Asia as well. There will be times Turkey departs from stated American policies; there will be times we step on each other's toes. But we should weigh these costs against the benefits that Turkey brings. How else, for example, could we end up with a secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference coming from a NATO member?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Afghanistan: 1946

If you'd like to take a trip down memory lane, check out this pamphlet put out by the State Department in 1946. Much has changed, of course, but much has not, like the comment from the first page that "transportation to and from this landlocked country has always been slow and difficult."