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Jun 2, 2012

Why Assad May Not Fall

    I have to say this. I’ll explain later. There’s no shortage news/op-eds/analyses that Assad would fall. I’m less sure. I was told Assad regime is running out of money and the economic sanctions are causing pain.
But few people are answering an equally important question. What’s next after Assad fall? Remember Syria consists of many sectarians hostile to one another. Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Christian, Alawites, to name a few. They would be fighting for economic pie after the Assad is ousted.
I read a wise op-ed by Hennery Kissinger in the Washington Post today. Military intervention is not a smart idea. I believe one of the main reasons why Obama and the like are reluctant to intervene to Syria is that they don’t know what to do next.

As I am typing this article, the middle class and the military still sticks to the regime for a very simple reason. They would not survive after post-Assad regime. Don’t kid yourself. No matters how crippling the sanction is, that regime would not fall, unless with outside military intervention.
And America may get bogged down in Syria, should she intervenes. Iran would become more supportive of Sunni in the Syria and bleed not only outsiders but also the Syrian people of different beliefs. She surely would seek to advance the interests there. Oh! I just knew a very disturbing fact of Obama policy on Iran.
I heard it’s going to be OK. When Assad is ousted, everything would be fine. Things are manageable. That’s wishful thinking. I hear this song before. Is it Iraq?
One of the most realistic scenario is power sharing through negotiation. Political scientists David F. Gordon andStephen D. Krasner proposed the West and Friends of Syria put on more sanctions through the refusal to recognize any contracts signed by Syrian government. Putting up more pressure to bring Assad to table and negotiate a way out. Syria should be the next Lebanon, not Libya. No Military intervention with no end insight and what would come next. Oh! Dr. Stephen D. Krasner. I read some of his works and am now reading his most influential book. Sovereignty:Organized Hypocrisy. Want to learn more about Lebanon and Syria. And Why Lebanon model should apply to Syria. You may find this book very interesting.  From Beirut to Jerusalem by Tom Friedman. Assad may fall but Assadnism  would Not. 

Mar 11, 2012

Give War a Chance: When Israel Controls Our Mind

  I’m not supposed to write another article on Iran. I don’t have many new points to add. But I’m surprised to see more and more people start to believe Israel has got to strike Iran’s nuclear sites.  Hasn’t Iran been a threat to US and Israeli security for decades? The threat is overblown.
The case is being politicized. The Economist has powerful arguments against striking Iran.  I agree with the notion Iran must not get the nukes for the sake of security in Middle East. Some wrongly claim Iran must not get the nukes or we risk igniting nuclear cold war. Wow. Where is Israel located? Israel has hundreds nuclear warheads.
Benjamin Netanyahu is fond of saying time is running out. I saw many op-eds by either journalists or politicians arguing against striking Iran.  It’s simply misleading at best. I’m glad there are many sensible responses towards such flawed arguments.  I believe few well-informed people think the strike would stop Iran. It would delay the developments years only.
Why is Israel talking so loudly about striking Iran? To inform Iran needs to fortify its nuclear sites to limit the damage? If the war rhetoric is to discourage Iran, the strike is unnecessary then.  Don’t listen to Obama and Netanyahu too much. They are not telling the real truths. I dare to bet. The more you listen to their words, the more you convince Iran is to be stuck.  And Israeli capacities to strike Iran to and to contain the possible counterattacks are of course very questionable. 
Iran case receives too much attention.  Obama did a lot once presidential election is coming, especially on Iran. The sanction is prepared to fail. It looks tough on the surface. Not the case of one digs a bit deeper. Economic sanctions may serve or satisfy a certain kind of people. It rarely results in expected anticipation and the innocent people are the ones who pay the highest price.
Now that Iran agreed to join the nuclear talk again, the strike is even less likely and welcome. As Obama warned rightly Loose Talk only helps Iran. What does Israel really want then? It could be Obama and Palestine.
Scores were killed in Gaza recently. They paint Iran as a great threat to distract international community from seeing the atrocities being committed on Palestinian people. As we know, Palestine is going big for statehood. 
President Obama was more supportive of Palestine for a while. Israel makes use of Iran to keep him busy. He did pull back. I support this president. American is too pro-Israel. It’s election season. He has to soften the position to win votes and money from deep pocket Jews. However, I do hope he would get tough again.
To strike or not to strike Iran? There have been talks about that. Little is discussed on what Israel wants. I just share my thoughts.  All politicians are being very busy with Iran and to a lesser extent with China. Talks on deficits, education, competitiveness, political gridlock, energy independent and economic recovery commands little attention. We need to have more conversations on those real threats.

Feb 7, 2012

Behind the War Game against Iran

Is Israel going to strike Iran?  I saw this title in a number of websites I visited. The chances are close to nil, for me.  Stephen M. Walt rightly pointed in Foreign Policy may be Israel wants to distract everyone from their continued expansion of West Bank settlements and other brutalities against Palestinians. And I don’t believe striking its nuclear sites would make Iran abandon the project.
At worse, it encourages and justifies Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Iran is trying to develop a nuclear capability not a nuclear weapon, as Leon Panetta recently said. Supposed Israel did strike Iran, US’s interests in Iraq would be severely harmed, perhaps the peace prospect here. The sanctions approved would not make a huge difference.  Europeans are not willing to go with US move. They did it in return for IMF intervention in the Eurozone. China and India are not cutting oil import from Iran. If history is any guide, sanction produce modest result at best. That case is still true for Iran. 
I was late for writing an article on Iran. But I do update my status frequently on that issue. I invited you to friend me. Iran is a problem. Still, it has a lot of do with 2012 election. Iran is a red herring. It’s Obama strategy using Iran to please Israeli voters and millionaires and billionaires.
It’s worth noting Israel was mad thanks to his position that Palestinian-Israel negotiation be based on the map before 1967. This helps explain why his party lose massively in mid-term election. He has got to reverse the curse to get reelected.  Hey, Iran is a foe to Israel.
It also helps soften the blow made GOP presidential candidates, notably Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. I see the dark side of the sanction. The West is getting way from Iran as China and Russia stay in the same position, if not closer. They may use Iran to work again American interests in Middle East. Obama should strike a prudence balance between getting votes and retaining and promoting American interests Middle East. I don’t know where that balances lies. 
I want to write an article on the case since the drone disaster.  A lot of things just hold me back, including my laziness. I believe a team of Russian scientists in Iran may find a way to hack into the system, if the drone was not malfunctioned as US officials claimed.
No worries, there won’t be a strike on Iran nuclear sites. And US-Iran war game is not escalating into a real war. Everything would be fine after the election. I endorse Obama for President. He is the best (amongst the worst.) What is the best way to deal with Iran? Could I keep this question?   My Facebook statuses confirmed I used to post the points I raised. Not kind of plagiarism. 

Jan 8, 2012

A Stronger China is a Weaker China (and Vice Versa)

2012 is a roller coaster year, fasten your seat belt. It’s going be another bad year. I’m not sure how bad it would be. Eurozone is still unpredictable. China is slowing and US may experience the combination of worst economy and politics.
The situation is turning from bad to worse.  The real disaster will play out in quarter 3 or 4, if we allow it to play out. Still, I think we will be muddling through for the whole 2012.
What did I mean by a stronger China is a weaker China. Simply put, the stranger China grows, the more domestic challenges it faces. These will keep China busy for a while. It will become less assertive.
The biggest threat to Chinese leaders is environment, I think. The growth happened over the last 30 years was at the heavy expense of the environment. You don’t need to be an expert to understand how bad the environment in China is. The air in the cities, especially in Beijing, is very dirty and most of the rivers are poisoned.
Photo Credit : The Nation 
I remember reading an article by The Time on why Chinese millionaires and billionaires are leaving China. The unexpected answer is that a number of them said they left because of air quality and the quest for higher education.
The second biggest threat is the redistribution of wealth. Ordinary and peasants are left behind as the economy is sprinting ahead. One needs a strong middle class for a strong and sustained economy. Cut the tax for the rich may raise productivity. But, who’s goanna buy it, if not middle class people?
People closely connected to the Party makes big bucks without hard work. So, when the Government wants to transfer the wealth, they (the rich) may oppose to any significant change. Trying to strike the balance between wealth transfer without shaking leadership is a huge challenge for CPP.
The western parts of China are landlocked, resource-poor and ethic-hatred-stricken.  It takes efforts, time, money and high commitment to make the Western parts at least half prosperous like the coastal regions.  It keeps Chinese busy dealing with this important issue.
A number of scholars agree, including me, market force will democratize China. What I’m not sure it would be a democracy within a single party or multilateral parties. There may be a huge reshuffle at some point within the Party.
The bottom line is that China will become less assertive and pre-occupied with domestic problems for years to come. If the leaders are able to deal with these problems, China will emerge again. Don’t get confused China is in decline by being less assertive.
But there is a footnote for this conclusion. US is interested in Asia than ever. A new geopolitical game is arriving. If US decides to play it at all costs, China will go with the flow. And a less assertive China would be a more proactive.
Wining the New Geopolitical Game: Making the Superpower’s Rivalries Work to Our Advantage is my next project. How do we confront the new game in Asia and take advantage of it?  I’ll try my best to offer workable solutions. 
By the way, I'm reading On China ( in epub ) by Henry A. Kissinger. Drop your mail here or send me a Facebook message, if you want to get it. 

Dec 29, 2011

I Know What Will Change North Korea

I know it’s too late for this time to write an article on North Korea. Better late than never!  I was preoccupied with midterm exams. But I was also following the news.
Will Kim Jung En be able to consolidate power? Who is really in charge of? A number of media outlets questioned those “less important” issues.  I don’t think conflicts over leadership will lead the collapse of North Korea. Supposed that it does, China would come in and prop up the ones she thinks it’s in her best interests in the case of disorderly breakup. North Korea is still North Korea.
Most of us agree the spring is highly unlikely. Still, I think there is at least a way to get North Korea changed. Bring Capitalism to North Korea! There are encouraging signs Capitalism is creeping into North Korea. Kaesong complex and a major resort owned by Hyundai are good examples.
Don’t take it for granted.  Some North Koreans are getting the sense of capitalism. The best case scenario for North Korea is another China, state capitalism. When people are better informed, they become more demanding. The more Korea Koreans are informed, the closer its leader face the Do or Die dilemma. If you are still unsettled, take a closer look on China.
Sure enough, they won’t change easily. We have to force them to change. There should have been a discussion over the reopening of that resort during Hyundai chairwomen visit to North Korea, as media speculated. That could be very encouraging.
The poor pay the ultimate price for economic sanctions for the West. This is not to say I support sanctions lifting. The dark side of the sanctions is that it makes the people poor. What is happening when they are poor? They become less demanding. They are less interested in what their leaders are doing.
As Nicholas Kristof put in the New York Times: “American officials blame China for coddling North Korea, but at least Beijing has a strategy. It is to encourage the Kim regime to replicate the opening and reform policies that transformed China itself. These days, Chinese traders, cellphones, DVDs and CDs are already common in border areas of North Korea, doing more to undermine Kim rule than any policy of the United States.”
I didn’t agree with him on the last sentence. It’s dangerous if US keeps doing business while not making sure the surpluses enjoyed by Pyongyang are not being used to develop nuclear capacities. I’m glad US started to offer humanitarian aid again. And I just learnt Russian is interested developing pipelines through North Korea to supply the gas to South Korea. Hey, it’s a good move. 
I think you learnt from the news a number of North Koreans cry over Kim’s death. Are they completely brainwashed? May be not! A friend of mind working with refugees from North Korea told me a very interesting fact.
He said they are not completely brainwashed. Pirated DVDs from China info them about outside world (especially for people living in the City). They are better informed, he went on. What is problematic is that there is no civil society so that they can demand for changes.
When China, South Korea, US, Russia and Japan start to do their parts, I think we can bring about changes. Stating to do business with North Korea means we are weakening the regime for betterment, but only after making sure gain in business doesn’t go to the nuclear programs. How? I’m searching for the answers.

Dec 13, 2011

Russia Still Needs Putin

I finally can manage the time to write an article.  Putin has brought stability to Russia although sometimes with his iron fist. He fails to decrease the feelings of fear among Russian people. Journalists are being killed. Media is working to Kremlin advantage. A number of people officials get rich without hard work.
I’m not saying he does or manages it. But all things happen under his watch.  I think each country needs free press and empowered citizens to keep the Government in check and to hold Government officials accountable.
I don’t think the demonstrations would trigger regime change happened in some Arab countries.  But I do believe it could make some necessary changes, supposed that the momentum is not losing.  They of course have to pay the price as there have been reports hundreds have been jailed.
Enough Said. 
At the same time, Russia still needs Putin to also make necessary changes. Some moves are politically impossible for democracies like the West. Obama failed to get the American Jobs Act passed because of the system of checks and balances. US needs to be less democratic and Russia needs to be more democratic. If the problems American is facing now are Soviet’s, it would be less time-consuming. Eurozone’s recent deal is also a good example.
Through his unbalanced power, he is able to allocate resources to advance the preconditions for future growth. Scholars living in developing countries understand well about this. Yeah, His government, in some ways, is a corrupted, bureaucratic one. Luckily, Russian people are trying to rectify it. I hope they are successful without paying a heavy price.
Russia will still need him in case he gradually open Russia to democracy and get rid of corruption and promote a system based on meritocracy. He has to some homework if he is to stay in power.
Regarding Secretary Clinton’s criticism of Russian election, I think she just paid lip service. And Putin responded to her criticism in a good mood also. It was the media and some people who overreact. It was a tit-for-tat attack. It’s building up the distrust, misunderstanding and misperceptions between both countries. It’s the technology advancement, stupid.
I don’t subscribe to the view the relations between Russian and US will be shaken if Putin is elected. The relations won’t be greatly changed. He has always been in charge. Russian needs to be more democratic and the Russian people are fighting for it. I’m on their side.  
If ones want things to stay the same, things have to be changed. Most Russians are not anti-Putin but they are fed up with him. Putin must make changes.