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In July 2010 the Chief of the General Staff Sir David Richards (CDS-designate) hosted a special showing of The Great Game, a series of 12 short plays about the culture and history of Afghanistan, at the Tricycle Theatre in London. He took his own immediate staff, people from the MoD including the Second Permanent Secretary, a senior Treasury official and other opinion-leaders.

The programme notes included an excellent history of modern Afghanistan from the 1830's to the present day by Jane Shallice, who is also a member of the Stop the War Coalition. It is reproduced here by her kind permission and that of the theatre, whose Director Nicolas Kent commissioned the works and which, with the active support of General Richards, is taking them to be performed across the United States (including Washington DC.)

You can read the whole history here.

 

Editor's note: This is the final installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman wrote during his travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he shared his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and now concludes with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

I have come home, a word that is ambiguous for me, and more so after this trip to Romania, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland. The experience of being back in Texas frames my memories of the journey. The architecture of the cities I visited both impressed and oppressed me. Whether Austro-Hungarian mass or Stalinist modernism, the sheer size of the buildings was overwhelming. These are lands of apartments, not of private homes on their own plots of land. In Texas, even in the cities, you have access to the sky. That gives me a sense of freedom and casualness that Central Europe denies me. For a man born in Budapest, with a mother from Bratislava and a father from Uzhgorod, I can't deny I am Central European. But I prefer my chosen home in Austin simply because nothing is ever casual for me in Central Europe. In Texas, everything is casual, even when it's about serious things. There is an ease in the intensity of Texas.

On my return, some friends arranged a small dinner with some accomplished and distinguished people to talk about my trip. I was struck by the casualness of the conversation. It was a serious discussion, even passionate at times, but it was never guarded. There was no sense that a conversation carried with it risk. I had not met some of the guests before. It didn't matter. In the region I was born in, I feel that I have to measure every word with care. There are so many bad memories that each word has to be measured as if it were gold. The simplest way to put it, I suppose, is that there are fewer risks in Texas than in Central Europe. One of the benefits of genuine power is speaking your mind, with good humor. Those on the edge of power proceed with more caution. Perhaps more than others, I feel this tension. Real Texans may laugh at this assertion, but at the end of the day, I'm far more Texan than anything else.

Or perhaps I speak too quickly. We were in the Kiev airport on the way to Warsaw. As I was passing through security, I was stopped by the question, "Friedman? Warsaw?" I admitted that and suddenly was under guard. "You have guns in your luggage." For me, that statement constituted a near-death experience. I looked at my wife, wondering what she had done. She said casually, "Those aren't guns. They are swords and daggers and were to be surprises for my husband." Indeed they were. While I stood in mortal terror, she cheerily chatted up the guards, who really couldn't make out what she was saying but were charmed nonetheless by her complete absence of fear. In my case, the fear came in layers, with each decade like another layer in an archaeological dig. For her, memory is a much simpler thing.

The region I visited is all about memories — never forgetting, never forgiving and pretending it doesn't matter any more. Therefore, the region is in a peculiar place. On the one hand, every past grievance continues to live. On the other hand, a marvelous machine, the European Union, is hard at work, making the past irrelevant and the future bright. In a region not noted for its optimism, redemption is here and it comes from Brussels.

Read more...  

Editor's note: This is the seventh installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman is writing as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he shares his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and will conclude, in the next installment, with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

To understand Poland, you must understand Frederic Chopin. First listen to his Polonaise and then to his Revolutionary Etude. They are about hope, despair and rage. In the Polonaise, you hear the most extraordinary distillation of a nation's existence. In the Revolutionary Etude, written in the wake of an uprising in Warsaw in 1830 crushed by Russian troops, there is both rage and resignation. In his private journal, Chopin challenged God for allowing this national catastrophe to happen, damning the Russians and condemning the French for not coming to Warsaw's aid. Afterward, Chopin never returned to Poland, but Poland never left his mind.

Poland finally became an independent nation in 1918. The prime minister it chose to represent it at Versailles was Ignacy Paderewski, a pianist and one of the finest interpreters of Chopin. The conference restored the territories of Greater Poland, and Paderewski helped create the interwar Poland. Gdansk (the German Danzig) set the stage for Poland's greatest national disaster when Germany and the Soviet Union allied to crush Poland, and Danzig became the German justification for its destruction.

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By Caroline Dynes

Why are the US and the People's Republic of China (PRC) so interested in Taiwan? It's a small seemingly inconsequential island that does very little to upset the international arena. Both have their different reasons for having their interests piqued by the island formerly known as Formosa.

From a Chinese perspective Taiwan represents the last vestige of defiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a contradiction of its triumph in the civil war, on top of which it is a symbol of past foreign dominance as it was taken from China by Japan in one of the Unequal Treaties. This failure is dubbed the 'Century of Humiliation', and regaining Taiwan is seen as the last stumbling block to making China great once more, becoming the greatest nation on earth, a status it had held for thousands of years. America's interference in the East Asia region is ostensibly why the Republic of China (ROC) based on Taiwan is able to survive with such a direct threat to their legitimacy so close, across only 90 miles of water.

The US had long had a relatively affable relationship with the Nationalist government in China, and at the end of World War II left them to fight their own battles. It looked likely that the communists would follow the Kuomintang (KMT) across the Taiwan Strait and settle the civil war once and for all. Indeed, shelling of islands like Quemoy was a feature for many years. However, the Korean War broke out in 1950 and it suddenly became imperative to the Americans to find allies in Asia to stand against the tide of communism sweeping the world. Taiwan became strategically important in containing the socialist threat to capitalist ideology. Taiwan became the spokesman for all of China, despite only being in charge of c.20 million of the potential billion Chinese, some of whom identified themselves as ethnically Taiwanese. However, the KMT's international representation of all China was for a limited time, as the PRC found its feet. The importance of America finding substantial allies against the 'Evil Empire', the USSR, took priority.

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By Deba Mohanty

The post-mortem has begun on the recent visit of US President Barak Obama to India. Preliminary autopsies suggest a heavy leaning towards optimism and even braggart assertions about the bilateral relations. A fairly balanced assessment, however, will come much later once promises and pronouncements are actually tested on the ground. Obama and his team have emphasised 'shared values, shared benefits and shared vision' between the two great countries. While shared values and visions do exist at the core of two democracies, with varying degree and often complementary, it is worth examining the 'shared benefits', which would put things in larger realistic perspectives.

Shared benefits in this context include expansion and consolidation of trade in civil and military domains, among others. While civil trade is mostly done between companies from both sides with minimal state supervision and intervention, it is the defence trade that is more complex, state-centric and often a casualty of legal procedural complexities as well as strategic considerations. Government approval is necessary even in the most insignificant military item transaction, although bulk of military manufacturing has gone into private hands in most countries.

Prior to Obama's visit, prognostic analyses in India suggested three broad assumptions—rise in American military equipment sales to India, growing company to company collaborations and gradual easing of regulations—apart from India's 'soft power' rise, possible entry into the high table in international affairs and a counter-balancer in Asian geopolitics. It must be mentioned here that the Indian soft power—cultural, historical, ideological and economic—has already been deeply embedded in its larger strategic framework, while a seat in the UNSC will not be easy, whereby US stamp of approval would only be symbolic at best. Counter-balancing act or 'strategic stabiliser' role in geopolitics needs more 'hard power' attributes than 'soft power'. In sum, symbolism seems to have overtaken 'hard business and strategic decisions', especially in the fields of defence trade, between the two countries.

All the three broad assumptions on defence trade are most likely to happen. If one looks at India's arms shopping list, it includes sale of C-130Js, Harpoons, P-8Is, C-17s, GE-414 aero-engines, etc. A reasonable assumption would suggest follow-on orders in most of these equipment and a possible $30 billion plus sale could be in the pipeline for the next five years (excluding $10 billion worth sale already approved). Collaborations with American firms will also increase as companies like Tatas start churning out components of military systems in collaboration with Sikorsky or state-owned HAL in collaboration with GE locally produces the aero-engine required for the LCA programme. Removal of restrictions on many of India's defence scientific labs will pave the way for import of critical components and technologies.

While such assumptions paint a rosy picture, the reality is actually very different. Four scenarios are laid down for further debate. First, the American discomfort on sale of weapons without signing agreements like CISMOA, LSA and BECA is likely to culminate in system acquisition by India that will be without critical support. This poses a challenge to the Indian scientists how to make the systems workable with Indian solutions. Previous experience of avionics and sensor integration to Su-30 by the Indian scientists gives much encouragement in this regard. Second, the American discomfort about Indian 'direct defence offsets' and FDI policies. The Americans would prefer 'indirect' to 'direct' offsets and would be happy if the FDI limit is raised to 49% or beyond. It would be wise on India's part if it carefully refines offsets conditions and resists the demand to raise the FDI limit for the moment as the larger Indian military industrial complex, at the moment dominated by state-owned defence firms, has not yet reached a level of maturity and global competitiveness. Third, we do not know why President Obama used the word 'so-called' entities list when it is 'real'! It will be wise again to wait for a while till the Americans work out on the list and impact of removed restrictions. Bulk of the Indian scientific community is still suspicious, so are many of our military leaders and even some of our pragmatic political leaders on this issue. Last but not the least, while the American decision making works on a composite system through which executive decisions are executed in a relatively fast manner, the Indian system is vertically structured and virtually independent of each other. Thus, the latter not only is a major hindrance to speedy decision making, leading to delays but equally importantly it leaves little accountability if things go wrong. If India wants a workable military industrial partnership with the US, it has to not only bring in reforms in its higher defence management structures but also emphasise collective decision making in an open environment.

Dynamics of military trade have changed from 'arms and influence' during the Cold War era to 'arms and incentives' in current times. If India wants strategic dividends from arms acquisitions, it must craft its acquisition policy in a prudent manner with the aim of bringing in knowledge that necessitates a higher degree of trust with the US. It should go beyond economics to factor in larger strategic considerations as well.

This article was first published the Financial Express on the 22nd November 2010. The author is a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

 
 

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