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

By George Friedman

We arrived in Istanbul during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God's command and praises the God who stayed his hand. It is a jarring holiday for me; I was taught that it was Isaac whom God saved. The distinction between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between Hagar and Sarah, between Abraham and the Jews and Abraham and the Muslims. It ties Muslims, Jews and Christians together. It also tears them apart.

Muslims celebrate Eid with the sacrifice of animals (sheep and cattle). Istanbul is a modern commercial city, stunningly large. On this day, as we drove in from the airport, there were vacant lots with cattle lined up for those wishing to carry out the ritual. There were many cattle and people. The ritual sacrifice is widely practiced, even among the less religious. I was told that Turkey had to import cattle for the first time, bringing them in from Uruguay. Consider the juxtaposition of ancient ritual sacrifice so widely practiced that it requires global trade to sustain it.

The tension between and within nations and religions is too ancient for us to remember its beginnings. It is also something that never grows old. For Turkey, it is about a very old nation at what I think is the beginning of a new chapter. It is therefore inevitably about the struggles within Turkey and with Turkey's search for a way to find both its identity and its place in the world.

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By Lukas Milevski

What is, and is not, unthinkable in defence and security depends upon the culture of the group doing the thinking. Culture is a web of narrative threads on issues, topics and themes relevant to a particular group. In terms of defence and security these narratives concern history, geography, the roles of force and law in society, and so on. Indeed, behaviour generally cannot be isolated from the culture of the acting group without making that behaviour random and meaningless. It is culture that gives meaning to thought and action. Culture is therefore in practice the sovereign context in which not just thinking and judgment take place, but also decision-making and doing. No analyst or decision-maker is autonomous of culture.

In practice, no state is a unitary political or strategic actor. A government is made up of a number of different ministries, occasionally conflicting, each with its own culture, and thus its own priorities, value judgments and methods of decision-making. At lower levels of granularity still, each ministry is itself comprised of discrete offices, each again with its own culture, occasionally conflicting with others, and so on. The holistic strategic culture of a state is therefore essentially an amalgam of a myriad of different tribal mentalities and cultures with the admixture of a sense of greater purpose not typically found within a single tribe itself. This does not just complicate decision-making, but also complicates the lesser task of consensus, due to the inevitable conflicts which will spring up in both discussion and action.

Within this context, friction is inevitable within a strategic culture among the various tribes of the defence and security community. Cracks appear in the façade and cannot be papered over, because disagreements are significant and the respective positions are too far apart to be reconciled among the various defence tribes. Such cracks represent issues dear to one or more of these tribes. These cracks thus represent 'unthinkables,' or issues for which certain outcomes are unthinkable for certain tribes.

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By Petr Labrentsev

International migration, polyethnicity, and transnationalism are major trends intrinsic to modern globalization. They have increasingly affected the societies of major immigrant-receiving countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Do they affect these countries' national security? For instance, is ethnic espionage a rising major threat? This essay attempts to answer these questions. It does not intend to present solutions. Rather, by examining and correlating socio-cultural, security, and globalization dimensions, it intends to point out to the forthcoming security challenges modern liberal-democratic countries might potentially face.

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Dr Robert Crowcroft

We are all now accustomed to being assured that something called 'globalisation' has revolutionised the world over the last fifteen years or so, and is continuing to do so. Commentators, politicians and academics deploy the phrase willy-nilly, to frame an explanation for all manner of problems. 'Globalisation' is a catch-all. It seems sophisticated. People tell us that the phenomenon is changing everything, from the experiences of everyday life to the character of international politics itself. Trade, migration, and international organisations mean that the nation state system is weakening and being supplemented – or, according to some, even replaced – by a world of global governance, multinational companies and cross-border social movements. As a result, globalisation constitutes the most profound change to the Westphalian international system since its inception.

That all sounds very grand. Unfortunately, it isn't really true. It is a myth. More: it is a myth with a pernicious effect in misinforming and distorting public debate about contemporary international politics. Why is that? The theory of globalisation flows from an assumption that the key drivers of the international system are now non-state based entities and ideas. That could be the World Bank or it could be Burger King. And its advocates emphasise issues which generate a degree of international co-operation – like climate change, war crimes, economic crises and rogue regimes.

But the problem is that, when subjected to scrutiny, the evidence for such extensive co-operation doesn't really stack up. Still less does the co-operation that does occur constitute a systemic change in international relations. How much unanimity between nations has there really been on issues, like Iran, which present an obvious danger to much of the so-called 'global community'? Brokering agreement between separate polities remains as difficult as ever. Even the North Atlantic states, most menaced by Islamism, cannot agree between them on what to do and where. Remember Iraq. And for that matter observe Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pakistan today.

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft

Predicting the future is usually a mug's game. Trying to discern what will, and will not, happen is not a profitable activity. Fortunately, however, the outlines of the international order over the coming decades are already there, at least for those who want to see them – because, in a very real sense, the 'future' is happening now. And that future is dystopian.

Definitions of 'dystopian' yield phrases like 'grim' and 'as bad as can be'; there is widespread 'human misery' and 'repressive social systems' under the guise of idealism, as well as 'poverty', and a 'constant' state of warfare and conflict. To those willing to recognise it as such, a new international political order has been emerging since the 1990s, gathering force by the year, and extending ever wider. This is a dystopian order, and, in short, is a very bad thing for humanity. Seeing the world in this way offers a far more realistic framework for understanding contemporary events and international dynamics than the unfounded dreams of an approaching golden age of co-operation forced down our throats by shrill Western leftists.

What makes the new international system qualify as dystopian is a convergence between the near-universal utopianism that marks political language in today's world with the increasing prevalence of violence, the impact of ethnic tensions, unprecedented global population growth, resource shortage and climate change, and the way in which technological advance facilitates police states. The strength of these forces is striking. Take Africa. In the last two decades the 'dark continent' has been exceptionally violent. Warfare has occurred virtually everywhere in Africa, both within and between states. There are precious few polities that function even adequately, let alone well. Tribal loyalties remain a powerful call on loyalties, and where ethnic tensions occur they ripple across national borders. In Central Africa, for example, in 1993 Tutsis in Burundi staged a coup and slaughtered around 100,000 Hutus. In 1994 the Hutus struck back with a coup in neighbouring Rwanda, overthrowing the Tutsis and celebrating the victory by instigating a genocide that left up to one million Tutsis dead. The effects rippled out across the geopolitics of the Great Lakes region: Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudan all felt the impact, as did the Democratic Republic of Congo, essentially a huge ungoverned space for several decades. But this is just one example; indeed the African states system has essentially collapsed. External states display only a fleeting interest in the region, and the two Sub-Saharan powers of any significance, Nigeria and South Africa, are both unwilling and probably unable to do much about it. This, surely, is 'as bad as can be'. During the football World Cup, when South Africa scored in the opening match of the tournament the BBC commentator – obviously brainwashed with comforting liberal assumptions about Mandela and so on – couldn't wait to exclaim that 'It's a goal for South Africa! It's a goal for all of Africa!' Presumably someone had written the line for him, but I wonder how the Hutus and the Tutsis feel about being lumped together, by the ignorance of the white man, into an imaginary emerging multicultural paradise? The arrogance is outrageous. When Germany defeated Uruguay in the third place play-off, was anyone stupid enough to yell that 'It's a victory for all of Europe'?

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By Alex Shone


The prime minster of the Serb Republic within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzergovina (FBiH), Milorad Dodik, campaigned in the 3rd October Presidential elections on an open platform of secession. If the republic were to secede from the FBiH it would pose a host of problems for the country and could have the potential to spark a resurgence of regional ethnic violence. There is strong pressure on the international community to intervene to prevent such an event from occurring; however, the capacity for such a response is fraught with complications.


The issue of secession in this region stems from a rhetorical question that if Bosniaks and Croatians could secede from Yugoslavia then why can the Serbian populations not respectively do the same from those regions? The answer is simply because the Serb populations of Bosnia and Croatia are not equal to the populations of either of those states and therefore their right to self-determination has never been recognised. The Bosniak population of the country stands at 48% while the Serbs are 37.1% with Croats constituting just 14.3%. A direct comparison is the Albanian population of Macedonia whose right to self-determination has also never been recognised by the international community.


In this respect, the Serbian population in the FBiH is very much an exception where they have their near autonomous republic known as the Republika Srpska (RS). The land mass of the RS is disproportionate in terms of its size compared to the Serbian population of the FBiH, comprising a 49% share of the country's territory. Dodik's call for secession has not been continual; rather the RS has waited and clearly acted at what seems the opportune time.
Prior to this, the RS has steadily retrenched and enhanced its position within the FBiH. Weak international protest was launched against the RS's inflammatory move this September to pass a law that transferred all property into direct RS ownership. Similarly, in the same month, the plan drawn up for the Inter-Entity Boundary Line is a serious breach of the 1995 Dayton Agreement that stipulates that all border demarcations must be in mutual agreement and conducted under the supervision of an international military force. It was this move particularly that inflamed opinion in Croatia whose president, Stjepan Mesic, threatened military intervention if secession were attempted.


Dodik's campaign for secession is based upon a precedent he claims was made by the international community when the International Court of Justice ruled that Kosovo's secession from Serbia was not illegal. International recognition of Kosovo as a nation state is not yet at hand; the secession of the RS from the FBiH would however set a precedent that would certainly destabilise the country and perhaps even the region. To once again make a contrasting example, the West has never recognised the right to self-determination of the Albanian populations of Macedonia, Montenegro or indeed Serbia itself. These could potentially be some of the wider impact points for a resulting wave of counter-secessionist sentiment.


Therein is where the threat to Balkan security lies. If secession by the RS from the FBiH were to occur, there is undoubtedly the potential to trigger a wave of counter-secessionism amidst states where political, social and economic structures are continuing to be refined and even built. If any kind of regional destabilisation were to occur, this would also have implications for the European Union's enlargement project.


Western support and recognition of Kosovo as an independent state was based on a policy of support for the controlled re-ordering of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). Undoubtedly this was in support of breaking away at the defeated Soviet Union's spheres of influence in the wake of the end of the Cold War. However, any such policy is now more complicated by other pressures weighing on Western capacity to act in the region.


South Eastern Europe and in particular the Balkan region is an immensely complex ethnic melting pot with a long legacy of conflict. International involvement in this region was conducted at a time when the US was more European-centric in its foreign policy outlook. Now however the US is embroiled in Afghanistan as well as having the pressure of present and future issues in Iran and North Korea. European involvement is similarly pressed by the same commitments as well as painfully-felt defence spending cuts. Therefore, the few states that do have an expeditionary force capacity are incredibly strained. A recurrent conflict in the Balkans is certainly a contingency that was once prepared for; but now times and priorities have drastically changed.


US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's arrival in the country announced the US's continuing commitment to the country. The US has clearly stated that they do not support any kind of Serbian secession from the FBiH and wish to see security and peace preserved in the region. The timing of Dodik's call for secession shows the perceived strength of their position versus that of Western powers who are perceived to be very much 'on the back foot' in the region.
Inextricable to this situation is the factor of any potential for genocide and/or ethnic cleansing. This is would of course be an unacceptable development although the question surrounding its likelihood is not a simple one to answer. The fact of the matter is that the same ethnic violence undeniably remains somewhere beneath the surface of the demarcation between the different communities. Whether this situation has the potential within it to create 'another Srebrenica' is unclear though events can hardly be allowed to unfold unchecked whereby the world might find out. Though few could disagree with the international responsibility to prevent such events, we should not forget that genocide in the previous wars occurred despite an international intervention.


Ultimately, the situation that is unfolding is a challenge to the FBiH as a viable state. If Dodik's description of Bosnia as an 'impossible' country is not to be proven correct then it is a challenge that the state must smash. It is the perception amongst other ethnic minorities across several of the Balkan states that Serbians are being appeased that is a key factor of the problem. If the RS were to secede it would confirm to them that the state is not workable and would provide minority nationalist politics with a very strong platform from which to operate. In short, secession cannot be allowed to occur if the FBiH is to remain a viable state. However, we cannot simplify the problem or deny the fact that the FBiH state is in poor condition to accept this challenge. The state is crippled by the weight of its own bureaucracy and the economy is heavily stagnated. All of which exacerbates tension that allows nationalist sentiment to re-open still-raw wounds in society.


Arguably, the international community is simply not in a position to respond to this situation. In the US and Europe, all available capabilities are destined for Afghanistan with forces already committed to new states where future transnational counter-terrorism efforts are to be prosecuted. Likewise, spending cuts have focused all available contingency conflict planning on potential action over Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. The extremely shaky ground that EU enlargement already rests on as a result of recent internal challenges could very well dissuade European interest in the region. Ultimately, expeditionary capabilities are highly unlikely ventures for the time-being and this could spell tragedy for Bosnia and the region if ethnic violence were once again to flare. Belgrade and the RS clearly see the reality of the international community's position and it would seem that they are prepared to act on it.

 
 

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