Robert Timberg’s Blue-Eyed Boy (2014): A Review

by Jeong Lee, a freelance writer.

Blue-Eyed_Boy-001In former Senator Jim Webb’s classic Vietnam War novel, Fields of Fire (1978), there is a scene where the protagonist, a young Marine lieutenant who is about to be sent to Vietnam, encounters his deceased father’s footlocker for the first time. After discovering his father’s belongings inside the footlocker, the lieutenant wonders to himself, “Will I, in the end, meet your fate, Father? I don’t want to, but I am not afraid. You and the others have taught me that.”

In more ways than one, journalist and author Robert Timberg’s recent memoir, Blue-Eyed Boy, mirrors the above scene in Webb’s novel. For Timberg, a journalist and a former Marine officer whose combat wound in Vietnam left him disfigured for life, telling his story must have been a painful process, but at the same time, a cathartic rediscovery of his younger self and the blessings of his second career as a journalist and a writer. Unlike other war memoirs, Blue-Eyed Boy neither embellishes the author’s achievements nor does the book wallow in self-pity. Instead, the author is brutally honest about himself before his readers. As he writes, “I was no more John McCain [the subject of his two books] than I was Chesty Puller in the Marine Corps. But I more than survived.”

As a Marine infantry officer who served with the 1st Antitank Battalion of the 1st Marine Division in South Vietnam, he had seen some action, but in his own words, the dangers he faced “were nothing compared to what the grunts faced every day.” The cocksure Naval Academy Marine had thirteen days left before the end of his combat tour when the amphibian tractor he rode on hit a Vietcong landmine that left him with third-degree burns to his right forearm and his face. When the Marine Corps medically retired Captain Timberg, they described his wounds as “highly repugnant”. The disfigured former Marine officer would endure 35 facial reconstruction surgeries and be forced to start a new life.

Timberg stumbled upon his stellar career as a journalist by accident. In his interview with Baltimore magazine, he said that he pursued journalism because as a former football player and a Marine, he refused to let his disfigurement get the better of himself. However, there was something else. In his memoir, he credits his first wife, Janie, for guiding him to his newfound calling. As Timberg writes, Janie insisted that he pursue journalism because he “wrote good letters to [her]”. Indeed, through his dogged determination and perseverance as a newspaper reporter, he finds his new niche in print journalism. Although he still faced hostile stares and pity from people who did not know about his combat wound, after he wrote his first article for the Annapolis Evening Capital, he writes that he “had no sense of being disfigured”. In 1979, Timberg was selected for the prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University where he would interact with finest intellectuals and journalists from around the world.

robert_timberg

Perhaps more important, his stint as a White House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun catapulted the disfigured former Marine to the status as one of the finest chroniclers of his own generation. After Timberg covered the White House during the Reagan Administration, he would go on to write The Nightingale’s Song (1995), a book that chronicled the lives of five Vietnam-era Naval Academy graduates, Rear Admiral John Poindexter, Marine LtCols Oliver North and Robert MacFarlane, former presidential candidate John McCain, and Jim Webb whom he describes as the “kickass troubadour” of the Vietnam generation. In the final third section of the book where Timberg details the process of writing The Nightingale’s Song, he makes it clear that he did not approve of the chicanery with which North, MacFarlane, and Poindexter sought to flout the Constitution and deceive elected representatives. But at the same time, he writes that he could not help but think that the three received undue criticism “that went beyond condemning their action and trespassed into the personal. It was as if these critics…seemed to hate them, hate them with a white-hot intensity I found hard to comprehend (Italics mine)”. For this reason, by discussing at length his personal interview sessions with MacFarlane and Poindexter, Timberg attempts to impart a measure of dignity for his subjects. In a chapter entitled “Identity Crisis”, Timberg admits that as he was writing The Nightingale’s Song, “the anger that [he] had so long controlled, whose existence [he] had refused to even acknowledge, broke through the vaccine that had allowed [him] to ignore [their] actions”. Indeed, in the same manner that Webb accused draft-dodgers of their supposed cowardice in his novels, Fields of Fire, and A Country Such As This, Timberg would render his not-so-kind judgment against those of his generation that did not serve.

Although I do not share Timberg’s contempt for those of his generation who avoided military service, I see his memoir for what it is. A wounded Marine’s personal story of duty, sacrifice and personal triumph against seemingly insurmountable odds. And of course, a man’s candid admission of his own personal failures and flaws.

The New York Times called Blued-Eyed Boy “a better metaphor for the experience of Vietnam veterans than the somewhat contrived construct of his previous book”. But for me personally, it is an inspirational tale of personal triumph against seemingly insurmountable odds.

See also:Q&A with Bob Timberg“, C-SPAN, 03.09.2014

– Robert Timberg, “Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir” (New York: Penguin Press HC, The, 2014), 384 pages.

Posted in Armed Forces, Book Reviews, English, History, Jeong Lee | Leave a comment

Sie haben Sinjar überlebt – und was nun?

von Vager Saadullah. Vager Saadullah (Twitter / Facebook) ist ein kurdischer Journalist und Editor in Dohuk, Irak. Er absolviert einen Masterstudiengang in Internationale Beziehungen an der Girne American University in Zypern. Die Englische Version dieses Artikels wurde auf War Is Boring veröffentlicht.

Übersetzung: Alison Haywood. Alison Haywood (Twitter) ist eine US-amerikanische Journalistin, welche momentan einen Masterstudiengang in Journalistik in Aarhus, Dänemark absolviert. Sie schreibt und berichtet für Publikationen in den Vereinigten Staaten und in Deutschland.

Die provisorisch aufgestellten Zelte waren zum Bersten voll - hier teilen sich 21 Personen ein Zelt (Foto: Vager Saadullah). Ausserhalb des Büros von Dyar Fatah wird für die Flüchtlinge des Camps gekocht (Foto:  Vager Saadullah).
Rechts: Die provisorisch aufgestellten Zelte waren zum Bersten voll – hier teilen sich 21 Personen ein Zelt. Links: Ausserhalb des Büros von Dyar Fatah wird für die Flüchtlinge des Camps gekocht. (Fotos: Vager Saadullah).

In überfüllten Lagern ringen vertriebene Jesiden mit Hunger und Wetter. Im Camp Wargehe Delal in der kurdischen Stadt Zakho halten sich rund 6’000 Flüchtlinge der religiösen Gruppe Jesidi auf. Die meisten haben das Martyrium beim Berg Sinjar überlebt, wo anfangs August 100’000 Jesiden Zuflucht vor den IS-Kämpfern gesucht hatten.

Nechirvan Ramazan, ein Geschäftsmann von Zakho, finanzierte die hastige Konstruktion des Lagers. Es ist groß genug um 900 Familien unterzubringen — notdürftig und ungemütlich. “Es fehlt im Lager an Kleidern und Schuhen für [Binnenvertriebene] und manchmal auch an Essen” sagt Dyar Fatah, der 29-jährige ehrenamtliche Verwaltungsleiter des Lagers.

Diyar Fatah. photo by Vager Saadullah

Diyar Fatah. (Foto: Vager Saadullah).

Der 27-jährige Xelef Qasim befand sich in der Stadt Sinjar, als die IS-Kämpfer in die Stadt eingedrungen sind. Als er acht Leichen auf der Straße liegen sah, floh er schliesslich. “Ich bin zwei Tage lang von Sinjar nach Siba gelaufen,” erinnert er sich. “Am dritten Tag bin ich am Berg Sinjar angekommen.” Wie er weiter ausführte, verharrte er für vier Tage dort, wobei er die ersten drei Tage weder zu essen noch zu trinken gehabt hatte. “Wir gaben einfach alles was wir hatten den Kindern, damit sie überleben konnten.”

Als amerikanische Flugzeuge und irakische Hubschrauber Nahrungsmittel und Trinkwasser mit Fallschirme auf den Berg abgeworfen hatten, wurde die Situation etwas besser. Wegen den vielen Flüchtlingen auf dem Berg blieb die Versorgung jedoch spärlich.

Xelef Qasim. Vager Saadullah photo

Xelef Qasim. Bild: Vager Saadullah

Qasim ist überzeugt: Auch wenn es den Peshmerga gelingen sollte, die Stadt Sinjar völlig zu befreien, werde er nie wieder dorthin zurückkehren. “Araber von benachbarten Städten haben unsere Autos und Sachen aus unseren Häusern gestohlen,” sagt er. “Deswegen können wir nicht mehr zurückkehren und mit ihnen zusammenleben.”

“Die Situation hier [im Wargehe Delal Lager] ist schlimm weil wir bereits seit 11 Tagen hier sind, und es keine Toiletten oder Badezimmer gibt,” erzählt Qasim weiter. “Die Männer duschen sich im Fluss, aber für die Frauen geht das nicht. Deswegen bitten wir die westlichen Länder um Hilfe.” — “Weil wir den Irak für immer verlassen wollen.”

Gazal Murad, ein Großmutter aus Sinjar, tröstet ein junges Mädchen. Sie erzählt, dass die IS fünf ihrer Familienangehörigen gefangen hält – zwei Söhne, eine Schwiegertochter und zwei Enkel.

Gazal Murad2

Gazal Murad. Bild: Vager Saadullah

Als amerikanische Kampfflugzeuge einige Standorte der IS in Sinjar angegriffen hatten, entkamen Murads Söhne im Chaos. Die anderen aber blieben in Gefangenschaft. “Manchmal ruft meine Schwiegertochter uns heimlich an,” sagt Murad. “Sie sagt, dass sie in Tal Afar sei und die IS sie aufgefordert hätte, sich zum Islam zu bekehren — ansonsten würde sie getötet werden.”

By the way…
Gestern, 18. Dezember 2014 gab Masrour Barzani, Vorsteher des regionalen, kurdischen Sicherheitsrates in einer Pressekonferenz bekannt, dass es den Peshmerga gelungen sein soll, die monatelange Belagerung des Berg Sinjar durch IS-Kämpfer durchzubrechen. Dabei hätten die Luftangriffe der anti-IS Koalition einen entscheidenden Beitrag geleistet. Auf dem Berg Sinjar harren nach wie vor rund 1’200 vertriebene Jesiden aus. Mit weiteren Aktionen sollen die IS-Kämpfer auch zukünftig weiter zurückgedrängt werden. (Quelle: “Kurdistan Security Chief: ISIS Defeated, Surrounded in Many Areas“, Rudaw, 18. Dezember 2014).

Gegenüber offiziere.ch relativierte ein Kenner der Region die Aussagen Barzani etwas. Oftmals seien solche Sieges-Meldungen zu optimistisch gefärbt und hätten die Funktion die Erfolge der Demokratische Partei Kurdistans gegenüber der Patriotische Union Kurdistans und Arbeiterpartei Kurdistans hochzuspielen.

Unsere Kameraden von War is Boring haben eine interessante Artikelserie über die Zustände auf dem Berg Sinjar mit vielen eindrücklichen Fotos von Matt Cetti-Roberts: “I Flew to Mount Sinjar on an Iraqi Helicopter – It was intense“; “Starving and Surrounded, Kurds and Yezidis Refuse to Abandon Mount Sinjar” und “Getting Off Mount Sinjar Is a Nightmare“.

Posted in Iraq, Migration, Politics in General, Terrorism, Vager Saadullah | Leave a comment

“I am just a Naxalite Warrior” – der Guerillakrieg der Naxaliten in Indien

von Seka Smith. Seka Smith ist Politikwissenschaftlerin, lebt in Berlin und arbeitet im Politikbereich. Für Offiziere.ch schreibt sie unter Pseudonym.

I am just a Naxalite Warrior. Fighting for survival and equality. Policeman beating up me, my brother and my father. My mother crying can’t believe this reality. — Liedtext der “Asian Dub Foundation” zum Film “Brokedown Palace” (1999)

Die Bewegung der Naxaliten (Mitglieder unterschiedlicher kommunistischer Guerillagruppen) entstammt dem Dorf Naxalbari in Westbengalen (Indien) und etablierte sich 1967 innerhalb der Communist Party of India (Marxist) gegen die Grossgrundbesitzer, welche die Landbevölkerung ausbeuteten, und gegen die damals anstehenden staatlichen Umsiedlungsprogramme in den rohstoffreichen Regionen. Unter der Führung von Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal und Jangal Santhal begann in Naxalbari ein bewaffneter Aufstand, der bis heute andauert.

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30 Jahre nach Beginn des Naxalitenaufstandes, im April des Jahres 2007, berichtete die indische Zeitung “The Hindu” über eine Moskitoplage sowie die damit verbundene Sterblichkeitsrate in Indien und verdeutlichte, wie bedrohlich die indische Regierung die Naxaliten-Guerilla empfand:

More deadly than naxalites. […] Mosquitoes are more deadly than the naxals as malaria has killed much more people than naxals in south Orissa. — The Hindu, 12.04.2007.

Westbengalen wird kommunistisch und bringt keinen Frieden
Auf dem 7. Kongress der Kommunistischen Partei Indiens (CPI), der zwischen dem 31. Oktober und 7. November 1964 stattfand, wurde nach heftigen ideologischen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen verschiedenen Parteiflügeln die Communist Party of India (Marxist) (abgekürzt CPI(M)) ausgegründet und Puchalapalli Sundarayya, der zuvor die Telengana Rebellion in Hyderabad anführte, zum Generalsekretär gewählt.

Die neugegründete CPI(M) versuchte ihren eigenen, indischen, Weg des Kommunismus zu finden und lehnte eine Orientierung an den sowjetischen und chinesischen Kommunismus weitgehend ab:

The new Communist party, however, was at best a limited ally of the CCP in its conflict with the CPSU, never a partisan. Even this partial alliance was one-sided and short-lived. — Bhabani Sen Gupta, “China and Indian Communism“, The China Quaterly, No. 50, S. 281.

Die indischen Autoritäten reagierten schnell und ließen viele CPI(M)-Anhänger verhaften, so dass das Zentralkomitee erst im Juni 1966 zum ersten Mal tagen konnte, weil die führenden Funktionäre, wie bspw. Bhalchandra Trimbak Ranadive, Promode Das Gupta, H.K. Konar und Muzaffar Ahmed, im Arrest saßen.

Naxal3

Die Wahl zur Lok Sabha von 1967 wurde zur ersten Bewährungsprobe für die relativ junge Partei. Insgesamt wurden 59 Kandidaten zur Wahl gestellt und 19 davon konnten Sitze im Unterhaus des indischen Parlamentes erringen. In Westbengalen konnte die CPI(M) von 40 Mandaten gerade fünf für sich gewinnen. Noch konnte sich niemand vorstellen, dass diese Partei in den Jahrzehnten danach die längstregierende und demokratisch gewählte kommunistische Regierung der Welt stellen würde.

In den Bundesstaatswahlen von 1977 konnte das von der CPI(M) angeführte Linksbündnis (Left Front) 230 von 293 und fünf Jahre darauf 238 von 294 Sitzen gewinnen – eine absolute Mehrheit von 81%. Das außerordentliche Abschneiden der CPI(M) bei der Wahl von 1977 hatte mehrere Gründe:

  • Nach der “emergency rule” (1975-1977) von Indira Gandhi, begründet auf dem Artikel 352 der indischen Verfassung (Proclamation of Emergency), hatten die etablierten Parteien einen enormen Vertrauensverlust erlitten: “[…] the Janata party cut deeply into Congress´ support. This two parties split the votes, and the CPM was the beneficiary.” (Atul Kohli, “The State and Poverty in India: The Politics of Reform” (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), S. 790.
  • Die kommunistische Partei Indiens (CPI) hatte ihren Kredit in der Wählergunst verspielt als sie während des Notstandes mit der Regierung von Indira Gandhi kollaborierte. Damit war die CPI als ernsthafter Wahlgegner der CPI(M) weggefallen.

Die politischen Uneinigkeiten der Janata- und Congress-Parteien, die Mitwirkung der CPI am Notstandsregime und die Mobilisierung der Massen seitens der CPI(M) ließen die indischen Marxisten zum “Matchwinner” werden, die von 1977 bis 2011 ununterbrochen in Westbengalen in der Regierungsverantwortung standen und heute zur größten linken Partei in Indien zählen.

Wie der Phoenix aus der Asche
Das größte Problem der kommunistischen Parteien zur Durchsetzung ihrer Interessen war ihre eigene Zerrissenheit. So war die CPI(M) in Westbengalen zwar ab 1977 in Regierungsverantwortung, doch der Bruch mit den Naxaliten war längst Jahre zuvor an politischen Differenzen unüberbrückbar geworden.

Zwei Jahre nach dem Chinesisch-Indischen Krieg von 1962 beherrschte eine heftige Auseinandersetzung, nach der Richtung der Positionierung zum Moskauer oder Pekinger Kommunismus, die linken indischen Parteien. Charu Majumdar verließ aufgrund von Flügelkämpfen die CPI(M) und gründete 1969 die CPI(Marxist-Leninist), der er als Generalsekretär vorstand. Doch auch weiterhin standen sich viele kommunistische Parteien programmatisch diametral gegenüber.

Ausbreitung der Naxaliten (2007)

Ausbreitung der Naxaliten (2007)

Die indische Regierung reagierte auf die Gefahr, die von der Naxalitenbewegung ausging, und initiierte im Juli des Jahres 1971 eine militärisch-polizeiliche Gegenoffensive, bei der hunderte Naxaliten getötet und mehr als 20’000 Verdächtige verhaftet worden sind. 1972 wurde Majumdar gefasst und starb wenig später in Polizeigewahrsam. Der Tod des Naxaliten-Gründers und Chefideologen führte zum Zusammenbruch der CPI(ML) und verschiedene Strömungen innerhalb der Naxaliten stellten die Bewegung vor eine neue Zerreißprobe. Fortwährende Spaltungen und der kontinuierliche Militär- und Polizeieinsatz führten Ende der 70er Jahre fast zur Niederschlagung der Naxaliten-Guerilla.

Mitte der 80er Jahre hatten die Naxalitenorganisationen ihre Rückschläge weitgehend wieder kompensiert und konnte neue Anhänger, insbesondere an den Universitäten, gewinnen. Sie weiteten ihre Operationstätigkeiten kontinuierlich aus und schnell überschritten sie die Grenzen von Westbengalen.

In dieser Zeit entwickelten sich zwei Tendenzen innerhalb der Naxaliten: eine friedliche und eine revolutionär-gewalttätige Strömung. Für die militanten Naxaliten, insbesondere in der People´s War Group (PWG) und Maoist Communists Center of India (MCC) vereint, war die Zielsetzung nun eindeutig: der Kampf um die proletarische Weltrevolution hatte seine Ursache in der ungleichen Einkommens- und Besitzverteilung. Das Ziel war deshalb die vollkommene Zerstörung des Klassenfeindes und Gewalt war ein legitimes Mittel zum Zweck:

The immediate aim and programme of the Maoist party is to carry on and complete the already ongoing and advancing New Democratic Revolution in India as a part of the world proletarian revolution by overthrowing the semi-colonial, semi-feudal system under the neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation and control […]. This revolution will be carried out and completed through armed agrarian revolutionary war. — Presseerklärung der PWG und MCC (14.10.2004), zitiert in Bidyut Chakrabarty und Rajat K. Kujur, “Maoism in India: Reincarnation of ultra-left wing extremism in the twenty-first century” (New York: Routledge, 2010), S. 54.

1991 waren die Naxaliten in 15 indischen Distrikten aktiv. 2004 hatten sie bereits in 156 Distrikten Zellen aufgebaut und konnten sich auf 9’300 Kämpfer stützen. Zwei Jahre später wurde ihre Stärke bereits auf 15’000 Kräfte geschätzt, ihre Einflusssphäre erweiterte sich auf 160 Distrikte in den meisten Bundesstaaten und die Kontrolle von 20% der indischen Waldflächen. Der damalige Premierminister Manmohan Singh bezeichnete die Naxaliten 2006 als die einzig größte interne Sicherheitsherausforderung, der das Land jemals gegenüberstand.

Ausbreitung der Naxaliten (2013)

Ausbreitung der Naxaliten (2013)

2008 hatten sich die Naxaliten bereits in 182 Distrikten festgesetzt und ein Jahr zuvor hatte die naxalitische Guerilla einen “roten Korridor” vom Norden Indiens bis nach Süden in den Bundesstaat Andhra Pradesh gezogen – und ihm einen passenden Namen verpasst: die Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ).

Die Antwort der indischen Regierung
Im November 2009 begann eine Gegenoffensive der indischen Regierung, die in den Medien bald den Namen “Operation Green Hunt” erhielt. Dabei wurden 80’000 paramilitärische Einheiten (der s.g. Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)) zusammengezogen und im Kampf gegen die Naxaliten von der indischen Luftwaffe unterstützt. Bei der Operation, und bereits zuvor, kam es immer wieder zu gewalttätigen Übergriffen der Sicherheitskräfte auf die Zivilbevölkerung und zu Misshandlungen und Morden von Verdächtigen im Polizeigewahrsam.

Zur Bekämpfung der Guerilla wurde eigens eine Sondereinheit gebildet: das “Commando Battalion for Resolute Action” (COBRA), dem gegenwärtig 10’000 Mann unterstellt sind. Obwohl die Naxaliten 2010 eine ihrer größten Einzeloperationen in der Geschichte des Naxalitenaufstandes starteten, zeigte die Aufstandsbekämpfung sukzessive Wirkung, insbesondere kombiniert mit dem Arbeits- und Sozialmaßnahmengesetz NREGA, und spätestens 2013 war der “rote Korridor” fast vollständig zerschlagen worden. Die kommunistische Guerilla musste sich aus den meisten Bundestaaten zurückziehen, sodass sie nur noch im Nordosten von Andhra Pradesh, im südwestlichen Teil von Jammu & Kashmir, im Süden von Chhattisgarh sowie in der Grenzregion zu Maharashtra, in Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Assam, im Osten Tripuras, im Norden von Mizoram, in südöstlichen Teilen von Arunachal Pradesh sowie in ganz Manipur und Nagaland eine nennenswerte Bedrohung darstellt – und der Kampf wird gegenwärtig von fast 390’000 paramilitärischen Kräften der CAPF weitergeführt.

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Indische Paramilitärs während der Operation Green Hunt.

Fazit
Am 8. Juni 2014 wurde bekannt, dass im Bundesstaat Chhattisgarh, eines der Zentren der Naxaliten-Bewegung, zehn weitere, zu den bereits dort 36 eingesetzten, Bataillone verlegt werden. Insgesamt sollen 10’000 Paramilitärs den Kampf gegen die Naxaliten verstärken. Dass die indische Regierung unbedingt eine Zerschlagung der Aufstandsbewegung in den Distrikten von Chhattisgarh will, zeigt auch die Neubesetzung des Amtes des Generalinspekteurs der Polizei in Bastar durch Shivram Kalluri, einen engagierten Anti-Naxaliten.

Mit der Regierung der CPI(M) in Westbengalen hätte eine linke Partei die Durchsetzungsmacht gehabt, die Arbeits- und Lebenssituation der Landbevölkerung nachhaltig verbessern zu können. Doch weder die Landesregierung noch die verschiedenen Naxaliten-Organisationen konnten substantielle Verbesserungen durchsetzen. Obwohl das Bruttoinlandsprodukt des Bundesstaates in den letzten Jahren kontinuierlich gestiegen ist, leidet Westbengalen weiterhin an übergreifender Korruption, wiederkehrenden Arbeiterstreiks, an einem miserablen Gesundheitssystem, fehlender wirtschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Perspektive sowie schlechter Regierungsführung, die zwar 2011 zur Abwahl der CPI(M) führte, aber die dringenden Probleme durch die Nachfolgeregierungspartei bisher nicht gelöst werden konnten, außer dass die Naxaliten in Westbengalen deutlich an Anhängerschaft verloren haben.

Obwohl der naxalitische Impetus, den Menschen ein besseres, sicheres und freies Leben zu ermöglichen, nach wie vor das Ziel der Guerillakämper ist, kann man die Frage stellen, ob sich dieser Krieg nicht zu einer sich selbst ernährenden Kriegsökonomie entwickelt hat. Als 1967 der Aufstand in Naxalbari begann, dachte niemand daran, dass mehr als 40 Jahre später der Guerillakampf immer noch toben, bis dato mehr als 12’000 Tote fordern und eine “Revolutionssteuer” den Naxaliten jährlich etwa 44 Mio. Euro in die Kassen spülen würde. Nach mehr als vier Dekaden Krieg könnte man meinen, dass der Naxaliten-Aufstand die Situation der Landbevölkerung eher zementiert als verbessert hat. Doch selbst wenn die Naxaliten-Guerilla zerschlagen wird, ist es fraglich, ob sich die Lebensbedingungen der Menschen nachhaltig verbessern werden oder man die Situation von 1967 nacherleben wird, als Großgrundbesitzer ihre Arbeiter ausbeuteten und die Regierung die Menschen aus Profitgier vertreiben wollte.

greenhunt
Weitere Informationen

Posted in General Knowledge, India, Seka Smith | Leave a comment

CIMSEC High School Scholarship Essay Contest

003_Sonar_Technician_1st_Class_Billy_Trowbridge_points_out_several_features_of_the_control_room_to_Elizabeth_Godin_and_Elizabeth_Palczynski-672x372The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is pleased to announce our first annual Maritime Security Scholarship Essay Contest. In an effort to further our mission of spreading awareness of security issues impacting the ocean commons, CIMSEC is issuing a call for papers from secondary school students* around the world.

It’s time to put on your nautical caps and think, read, and write about maritime security. A broad range of paper topics are encouraged, but should exhibit an awareness and interest in maritime or naval affairs. Submissions will be judged on originality of thought, logic, and ability to demonstrate the importance of the chosen topic to maritime security.

Awards

  • First Place: “Hipple Prize for Eloquence in Defense of the Seas” – $500 US
  • Second Place – $250 US
  • Honorable Mention – $150 US

Prize winners and other exceptional essays will be published on CIMSEC’s “Next War Blog” and here on offiziere.ch.

Eligibility
The contest is open to any Secondary/High School Student*, internationally. Submissions should include proof of student status (copy of student ID or transcript) along with the entrant’s full name and address.

Deadline
Contest entries are due no later than 15 January 2015 and the winners will be announced in the early spring.

Submissions
Entries of no more than 1,500 words in length should be emailed in Microsoft Word or .pdf format to [email protected]. Submissions will only be accepted in English, but we will be happy to help with light editing for non-native English speaking entries.

*Anmerkung des Admin: dies entspricht der gymnasialen Stufe, Abitur bzw. Maturität.

Posted in English, Sea Powers | Leave a comment

Personal Theories of Power: Land Power

by Nathan Finney. He is an U.S. Army officer, the Managing Director of the Military Fellowship at the Project on International Peace & Security, the editor of The Bridge, a member of the Infinity Journal’s Editorial Advisory Board and a founding board member of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. He holds masters degrees in Public Administration from Harvard University and the University of Kansas, as well as a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona.

This article is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

Every war, and every belligerent in every war, manifests a distinctive pattern of strategic behaviour among an expanding list of geographical environments. It is true that modern strategy and war registers trends towards ever greater complexity, ever greater ‘jointness’ to offset and exploit that complexity, and in the maturing potency of new modes of combat…It is no less true, however, that land, even ground, warfare has yet to be demoted to an adjunct, auxiliary, or administrative, role vis-à-vis superficially more modern modes and foci of fighting. — Colin S Gray, Modern Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 165.

In a discussion over the modes of power that are employed to achieve political purpose, the above quote would likely halt all communication before it even started. Some would even immediately engage their cognitive biases and fill their slings with the tried-and-true military service-focused and parochial rhetorical ammunition. The current narratives from the various services can certainly be seen to support such an assertion.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011.

However, while the above quote captures repeated insistence on the importance of land power, the author also indicates that while land power is vital, it is not sufficient, for “In practice, thus far, no single geographical domain suffices as provider of all strategic effect that belligerent states need.” (Colin S Gray, War, Peace, and International Relations (London: Routledge, 2007), 316).

So, when a political decision requires a definitive, more enduring answer, land power will likely be the main element of national power employed — there’s a reason the key theorist of war and land power focused on destroying an adversary’s armed forces, occupying his country, and breaking that nation’s will as his three main objectives in war (Carl von Clausewitz, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, On War (New York: Alfrec A. Knopf, 1993), 102). Such use of large amounts of men and women in campaigns of physical control are not the only use for land power, however. While it is the only element of national power that can compel through physical dominance (or as Rich Ganske have described in “Personal Theories of Power: Joint Action” by quoting Rear Admiral Joseph Caldwell Wylie, through a sequential strategy; Wylie quoted by Lukas Milevski, Revisiting J.C. Wylie’s Dichotomy of Strategy: The Effects of Sequential and Cumulative Patterns of Operations“, Journal of Strategic Studies 35, no. 2, January 18, 2012, 223-242), land power can also accomplish tasks through three other approaches to the use of force — assurance, deterrence and coercion — to create strategic effect.

Beyond Physical Control
To Gray, “strategic effect is the [cumulative and sequential] impact of strategic performance on the course of events.” (Gray, Modern Strategy, 19. The “cumulative and sequential” was added to the definition in Colin S. Gray, The Strategy Bridge: Theory for Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 18). It is the expression of how well a force translates tactical action into political gain; or said another way, how well the effects of military action maintain alliances and/or force an adversary (or adversaries) to change their behavior to match our desires. Given the fact that land power will likely be the element of national power least used to create strategic effect in today’s environment given its high political cost at home and abroad, how does an Army, as the principle manifestation of land power, provide options to assure, deter, and coerce? [1]

Deterrence and assurance require both credibility and capability. Credibility is created through the perception that force will be used to achieve stated interests. However, without an acknowledged force required to achieve said interests, i.e. the capability, then the threat of its use to deter undesired behavior or assure anxious allies is empty. In the end, an adversary cannot be deterred or an ally assured unless they believe the offending party can be compelled to appropriately change their behavior. While other elements of national power are important to either deterrence or assurance, both require credible and capable land power, the only element of national power that can compel behavior through physical control. The size, capability, proficiency, and posturing of land forces is what provides a credible deterrent and assures allies. As has been shown in Eastern Europe, the lack of a credible and capable force for deterrence can lead to political adventurism by adversarial entities and a failure to assure allies in a region.

Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Polish paratrooper unit attend a welcome ceremony.

Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Polish paratrooper unit attend a welcome ceremony.

Coercion is used to impel adversary behavior by shaping choices, either by punishment or denial; both utilize physical and psychological factors. Coercion by punishment is accomplished by damaging or destroying adversary capabilities required to achieve their interests, such as destroying naval assets that are being used in a blockade. Coercion by denial is using force to prevent the adversary from accessing the resources or territory required to accomplish their goals. Land power largely utilizes coercion by denial, such as placing American troops in a threatened country to significantly raise the costs of any action by an adversary. This also provides a degree of assurance for that partner nation. An example is the deployment of U.S. troops to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The use of these three approaches to force — deterrence, assurance, and coercion — can be seen as largely an attempt to control the choices of an adversary through the threat of force or limited use of violence. In Wylie-speak, since he is in vogue throughout these blog posts, the threat of force or limited use of violence by land forces in this manner reduces the adversary’s choices through a sequential strategy, ideally creating “implications of certainty of the end” through “its persistent exercise…typically steadily reduce the number of viable options open to the enemy.” (Lukas Milevski, Revisiting J.C. Wylie’s Dichotomy of Strategy, 233).

Land Force Considerations Outside of Physical Control
Using land forces to deter, assure and coerce in today’s strategic environment will require three core elements:

  1. The use of smaller, tailorable elements of the Army to accomplish strategic objectives. From a Special Forces detachment supporting a partner nation through foreign internal defense to a battalion task force taking part in a multinational exercise to strengthen NATO, Army forces must be prepared to train, equip, deploy, employ and sustain smaller packages of forces around the world. However, these elements must also be able to tap into larger regionally-focused/based forces to provide flexible options and scale up to conduct operations that provide denial by punishment, or compellence when necessary. The ability to disaggregate for cumulative operations must be matched with the ability to re-aggregate into larger formations — up to Division- and Corps-level — to conduct the combined arms operations required in ground combat across the range of military operations. (David E. Johnson, Hard Fighting, RAND, 2011, 173).
  2. A better balance of combat and enabling capabilities. While the application of land power is largely seen through the action of combat elements, so called “tail” elements are as important, if not more so, to military forces. Even Clausewitz, who purposefully excluded logistics discussions in his magnum opus due to his focus on the fighting itself and its use as a political instrument, recognized that “The provisioning of troops, no matter how it is done…always presents such difficulty that it must have a decisive influence on the choice of operations.” (Carl von Clausewitz, ed. and trans. Hans W. Gatzke, The Principles of War (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole, 1942)). The U.S. Army post-WWII has largely diminished the importance of its enabling capabilities — everything from transportation to engineers to missile defense to logistics — in favor of the “tooth” resident in its combat formations, even to the point of contracting out significant portions of the enabling functions; this in spite of the frequent acknowledgement of the importance of logistics in war (for example, see Martin van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, 2 edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), John A. Lynn, Feeding Mars: Logistics In Western Warfare From The Middle Ages To The Present (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994) and Benjamin Bacon, Sinews of War: How Technology, Industry and Transportation Won the Civil War, (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1997)). The Army must create a better balance between combat units to those that project, set, protect, and sustain a theater.
  3.  

    Multiple explosions as the British Python Minefield Breaching System clears a minefield.

    Multiple explosions as the British Python Minefield Breaching System clears a minefield.

  4. Assigning dedicated Army forces to geographic combatant commands and posturing those forces forward. Supporting the two elements above, land forces should be more permanently provided to those that use them in theatre. The value of Army forces is not that they can be made expeditionary, but that they can provide quick and enduring force when properly postured in theater. These elements can be used to conduct any and all of the three uses of force, in addition to be present when compellence, or a sequential strategy, is required.
  5. Conclusion
    In discussions of military power today there is much elaboration upon of the loss of “overmatch capability”. This term is largely meant in terms of the decreasing technological gap between the U.S. and its likely adversaries, from non-state actors with anti-acess/area-denial capabilities to near-peer states with air and sea platforms that look suspiciously like U.S.-technology still in production. Another aspect of overmatch is how presciently forces are postured and organized to prevent conflict through the assurance of allies or the deterrence or coercion of adversaries — or to be used to compel an enemy, if necessary. A decrease in overmatch from this aspect creates risk that the military will not be able to achieve the missions the U.S. requires of it. While we must mitigate risk across all domains, risk to the land domain is the most deadly. For, “Military success in land warfare can have a decisiveness unmatchable by success in the other geographies. If a state loses on land, it loses the war.” (Gray, War, Peace, and International Relations, 313).

    Footnotes
    [1] Elements of this strategic environment are not unique, of course, nor are its impact on the use of land power. For example, Clausewitz acknowledged the facts of limited war in his 10 July 1827 note and Sir Julian Stafford Corbett recognized land power was often ill-suited for limited warfare because of its inherent threat to the territorial imperative in his Some Principles of Maritime Strategy.

    • • •

    CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

    The Bridge is a blog dedicated to strategy and military affairs. It was formed in 2013 to bring together forward-thinking junior to mid-grade officers and practitioners from a variety of fields to analyze and write about current and future national security challenges.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, Nathan Finney | Leave a comment

Exploring the psychology of climate change

by Mischa Wilmers. He is an independent journalist based in Manchester covering social justice and international affairs. He has reported from the UK and South America for the Guardian, the Independent, New Internationalist, Deutsche Welle, Huffington Post, Equal Times, the Big Issue in the North, and the Santiago Times.

Global issuesFew climate activists were surprised when a YouGov poll published in late September comfirmed what many already suspected: the British public are not particularly worried about global warming. A minority of 39% responded that they believed climate change posed a serious problem affecting the world as a whole compared to 61% for poverty and 77% for terrorism. When asked which issue they believed presented the gravest global threat only 6% of those polled selected climate change.

Contrast this with the words of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon who, just two days after the poll was released, warned that humanity has never in its history faced a challenge greater than that of confronting climate change. “The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable”, he declared in his opening address to the UN climate summit in New York. A month later the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its most comprehensive study to date – a collaboration between thousands of climate scientists drawing together all the available evidence in one synthesised report. “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks,” the report concluded.

The contrast outlined above poses some obvious questions. Why does the disparity between expert opinion and public concern over climate change remain so great and what can be done to address it? Are humans psychologically incapable of facing up to the horrific likely consequences of global warming as described by scientists? These are the themes explored in a recently published book by climate activist George Marshall, titled “Don’t Even Think about It: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change“. The book argues that society’s apparent lack of concern over global warming is largely down to popular narratives which portray the issue as less immediate than other problems like terrorism.

The title of the book, Marshall concedes, is slightly misleading since he doesn’t believe that we are innately incapable of paying attention to or comprehending the issue. “It’s not so much that we’re wired to ignore climate change… The problem with climate change is that because it does not have immediacy, it’s not something that readily works with our inbuilt threat detectors”, he explains. To give a contrasting example, Marshall cites sensational media stories about immigration which have captured the imagination of millions of people in the UK and fuelled the rise of UKIP. “I live in a rural part of Wales where there’s quite a lot of concern about immigration despite the fact there are virtually no immigrants here”, he says. “Immigration is a very powerful socially conveyed narrative. The issue is that there are things about climate change which make it hard to form a compelling social narrative.”

Whereas stories about immigration and terrorism involve real experiences of real people living in the real world, stories about climate change tend to involve predicted events which could possibly occur to people living in a hypothetical future. Although temperature rises and changes in climate patterns over the long term can be attributed to anthropogenic global warming, scientists are unable to draw a direct link between climate change and individual extreme weather events.

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Furthermore, the victims of such events – who would make compelling protagonists – are often unwilling to accept that anthropogenic climate change is real. After spending time with survivors of floods and hurricanes in the US, Marshall found that many of them were understandably intent on restoring their lives to the way things were before the storm and were hostile to narratives which focussed on the need to change their lifestyles in order to avoid similar disasters in the future.

Marshall says that the dominant narratives on solving climate change tend to appeal to socially liberal people meaning that those with socially conservative values are quickly turned off. The key, Marshall argues, is to create narratives which speak to the full spectrum of human values and concerns.

“A lot of my work at the moment is to work with people with right wing political values and see what climate change would look like from their point of view. And it looks very different”, he says. “Climate change then isn’t a threat to polar bears but it’s a threat to their landscape, their culture, their sense of continuity, it’s a threat to freedom. I quote for example, an anti-abortion campaigner who has taken climate change as being a threat to the unborn child”.

Marshall’s observations are backed up by wealth of research which shows a strong correlation between people’s political affiliations and attitudes to global warming. “People’s world view is clearly the strongest predictor of their attitude towards climate change”, says Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol who has conducted extensive research on the psychology of climate change (cf.: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer, “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science“, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, October 2, 2013). “I can ask people four questions about the free market and if they tell me in their responses that they really care about the free market as the best way to distribute goods in a society then I can be almost certain that they will also say climate change isn’t happening and is nothing to worry about”. Many supporters of neoliberal economics recognise that any solution to climate change would have to involve greater interference with and regulation of global markets – a solution which, to their mind, is more dangerous than the problem.

Conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science (Details: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer,

Conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science (Details: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer, The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, October 2, 2013).

Responses in climate change polls also vary widely depending on the way the questions are phrased. “The tricky thing is that you have to ask people in a way that doesn’t trigger their political identification,” explains Lewandowsky. “When you do that you find that 70-80% of people know exactly that climate change is occurring, that it’s a real risk and that it’s going to get worse.”

But how do you get people to care? Marshall wants us to rewrite the narratives in a way that makes climate change appear more urgent and real. But there may be psychological dangers in this approach too. According to CRED – the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions – a growing body of scientific evidence shows attempts to scare people into action with fear-based appeals actually result in increased climate scepticism. “Anybody who runs a fear campaign will always combine that appeal to fear with a presumed solution to the problem”, says Lewandowsky. “Fear campaigns are very effective if they offer you the solutions”.

A fear campaign over the spread of ISIS in the middle-east, for example, will swiftly be followed by a proposed bombing campaign in faraway lands. Regardless of whether the strategy is effective or morally virtuous, the solution appears simple. In the case of global warming, Lewandowsky argues, the solutions are complex, nuanced, and less easily digestible.

There are some signs that the green movement is taking note of this. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party in England and Wales says that over the years there has been a gradual shift within the environmental movement away from fear based appeals and towards a greater focus on people’s primary concerns. “Putting more fear into the system really isn’t a constructive way forward. It’s very important for the Green movement to talk about how we can have a better quality of life because people are living with a sense of insecurity and we’ve got to provide solutions for that. For example, fuel poverty can be tackled by things like home energy conservation, home insulation and other measures”, she says.

Climate activists clearly face a number of challenges in communicating their message. But looking forward, Bennett is hopeful that attitudes to global warming will improve, citing polls which show around 70% of people in Britain now believe that human activity is contributing to climate change despite large sections of the media remaining sceptical. She also insists that the current political climate makes it easier for politicians like her to deliver this message. “I think it’s so much easier now than it would have been before 2007 in that people really are acknowledging that our current system is broken in all sorts of ways”, she explains.

“The economic and social inequality, the fact that young people can’t get jobs they can build a life on. That actually makes people much more amenable to new ideas and new ways of thinking. If you go back to 2007 people were feeling relatively comfortable and safe about the economy and their jobs and that made saying: ‘right we’ve got to change everything!’ a lot more difficult than it is now”.

Posted in Climate Change, English, General Knowledge, Mischa Wilmers | Leave a comment

Making sense of Russia’s international politics: applied legacies

by Patrick Truffer. He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freien Universität Berlin.

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered the annual Presidential Address to the Russian Federal Assembly. With regard to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and more general to Russia’s international politics, Putin didn’t say more as he did with his speech about the situation in Crimea and the Crimean parliament’s request to join Russia, held in March 2014. On the contrary, in this regard, Putin’s address in March was of more importance to the understanding of Russia’s behavior, which seems to be based on a growing paranoiac world view. This understanding of the behavior is important because even when we think an actor in international politics is irrational, from their perspective, their decisions are perfectly rational (see also Nick Ottens, “Rational Actors Don’t Always Make the Decisions We Would“, offiziere.ch, 03.04.2014). In November, I wrote this short essay, which tries to identify and contextualize legacies in today’s political discourse in Russia, which I like to share with you. It shows that Putin’s use of historical legacies and the selective choosing of emotionally loaded arguments complicates an objective assessment, makes the Russia’s foreign policy appear enigmatic and from an outsider’s perspective irrational.

The Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus about 988 (fresco by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1890).

The Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus about 988 (fresco by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1890).

In the course of the political crisis and the unrest in the Ukraine that started on 21 November 2013 after the population received the surprising news that the Ukrainian government would not be signing of the association agreement with the European Union, Crimea was separated from Ukraine. The Crimean parliament called for a referendum on the peninsula’s status to be held on 16 March 2014. The results led to a declaration of independence and subsequent application to join the Russian Federation. Putin’s speech on 18 March 2014 was given a few days before the State Duma and the Federation Council were to decide on Crimea’s request. Since the integration of Crimea into Russia was not a matter of dispute in Russia, Putin’s speech should not be understood as an attempt to sway the vote in his own parliament. Instead, it was an attempt to justify the move to an international community that was largely rejecting Russia’s planned move, a sentiment confirmed when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 68/262 on 27 March 2014 with a vote of 100 to 11 (with 58 abstentions and 24 absentees), which condemned the change in Crimea’s status.

Putin invoked the witness of several historical eras to justify his move. Building on the legacies of the Rus’, he references the ancient city of Chersonesus, near Sevastopol, “where Prince Vladimir was baptised”, to invoke the shared origins of Orthodox Christianity and the common cultural heritage of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. He then emphasizes Russia’s position as “first among equals” by referencing those Russian soldiers buried in Crimea after being killed in the wars to integrate Crimea into the Russian Empire. The death of these soldiers, the Russian majority on the peninsula and the predominance of the Russian language, culture and identity are presented as legitimate grounds from the Russian perspective for the annexation of Crimea. Nikita Khrushchev’s decision in 1954 to assign Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR was not only unconstitutional, but without consideration of the ethnic identity of Crimea’s population. From Putin’s perspective, such a change in Crimea’s status had only been feasible because at that time it seemed impossible that a sovereign Ukrainian state would emerge. Putin argues that Russia, having declared itself the successor state to the Soviet Union after the end of the Cold War, considers the loss of Crimea as “robbery”.

Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR "About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast from the RSFSR to the USSR".

Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast from the RSFSR to the USSR”.

Putin bases his arguments on the self-determination of people and the equality of ethnic groups. In contrast, the revolutionary forces behind the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych are labelled as “Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”, who emulate the ideology of Stepan Bandera. Before and after the Second World War, Bandera was the leader of the revolutionary segment of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, whose paramilitary wing (the Ukrainian Insurgent Army) fought for at least part of the war alongside the German Nazis against the Soviet Union for an independent Ukraine. Parts of these organizations participated in ethnic cleansings and the massacres of Jews, Poles and Russians in western Ukraine. Celebrated as heroes in western Ukraine, the leaders of these organizations represent from the Russian perspective the disastrous consequences of nationalism (Andreas Kappeler, “Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the Imperial Past and Competing Memories“, Journal of Eurasian Studies, vol 5, no. 2, July 2014, p. 107–15). As an example of National Socialist tendencies in Ukraine, Putin references the new Ukrainian government’s intention to allow only Ukrainian to be used as the official language, even in regions where more than 10% of the population speak a different language and regional official languages had already been officially approved. According to this argument, Putin ostensibly bases the status change for Crimea not only on Russia’s legitimate territorial right to the peninsula, but also the need to protect the Russian-majority population:

Those who opposed the coup [in Kiev] were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here what Crimea, the Russian- speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities. — Vladimir Putin, March 18, 2014.

Putin’s speech makes clear whom he holds responsible for the chaos in Ukraine, the instability in the Russian sphere of influence, and at the international level: primarily, the United States, followed closely by the European Union. In contrast to Russia, which claims to follow strictly international law in regard to International Relations, the United States and Europe would have weakened international institutions, exploited them for their own purposes, or simply ignored them. This started with the eastward expansion of NATO, which Russia considers a betrayal (cf.: Michael R. Gordon, “The Anatomy of a Misunderstanding“, The New York Times, May 25, 1997) and then continues with the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the intervention in Libya, the “Colour Revolutions” and the Arab Spring. Not only does this confirm the predominantly negative discourse in Russia about revolutionary currents as the source of bloodshed and terror, but it also reflects a world view marked by mistrust, conspiracy and a fear of instability that influences Russia’s decisions at the international level.

Putin’s speech shows how the historical legacy starting with the Rus’ in the 9th century to the modern day, the Orthodox Church, the Russian language, culture and identity are being exploited to justify his policies. Selectively choosing emotionally loaded arguments makes objective assessment difficult. Moreover, such arguments are difficult for observers without a background in Russian history to understand, which in turn can make Russia’s foreign policy appear enigmatic and irrational particularly from a Western perspective.

More information
Robert Legvold, “Managing the New Cold War“, Foreign Affairs, June 16, 2014.

Posted in English, Patrick Truffer, Russia, Security Policy | 1 Comment

Chinese Firm Planning a Canal Through Nicaragua Has PLA Ties

by Robert Beckhusen

A Nicaraguan canal would open a connection for China's heaviest container ships.

A Nicaraguan canal would open a connection for China’s heaviest container ships.

A Chinese company is preparing to begin work on the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal. Once — and if — the canal is ever finished, it will size up to more than 170 miles (about 275 km) and connect the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, with Lake Nicaragua in the middle. It’s a major project — larger than any other geo-engineering project underway in the world. Officially, it’s an opportunity for development championed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. But critics look at the canal as a boondoggle, and a means by which Ortega is developing a long-term relationship with Beijing — and China’s geopolitical interests. The builders of the canal also have important ties with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In June 2013, Nicaragua granted canal construction rights to the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Company (HKND), a conglomerate of firms established a year before and headed by Chinese billionaire Wang Jing. Wang is an obscure entrepreneur and it’s unclear how exactly he made his fortune, although much of it appears to have come from telecommunications. The canal project is risky for a little-known developer, especially considering the $50 billion cost, but also potentially very lucrative for Wang. But what’s also worth noting is that Wang has extensive ties with the Chinese military. That’s just one part of a recent investigation on the canal project by Nicaraguan weekly newspaper Confidencial.

HKND is not a single company, but a group of at least 15 different companies. These include Skyrizon Aircraft Holdings, registered in the British Virgin Islands and includes seven Dassault Falcon business jets. HKND includes the Southeast Asia Agriculture Development Group, which invests in mining and agriculture in Cambodia. HKND includes companies for investing in “sports and culture” and the arts. There’s also the telecom company Beijing Xinwei, of which Wang is chairman. This last company is associated with the Chinese military. Beijing Xinwei openly advertises its industrial-scale telecommunications projects, such as cellular towers and broadband communication standards. “Its goal has been more involved in industrial private networks, and so-called ‘special communications,'” reported Confidencial. “That is, government projects linked to the army, rather than the large local market of individual private telecommunications.”

Proposed canal routes in red (2013). Blue: Panama Canal. Most likely, the HKND-canal will follow the second route from the top, south of Bluefields.

Proposed canal routes in red (2013). Blue: Panama Canal. Most likely, the HKND-canal will follow the second route from the top, south of Bluefields.

According to the report, which cited a Guotai Jun’an Securities investment report, Xinwei is working on the People’s Liberation Army’s “brains of the future military network.” The newsweekly also refers to “special communications” as a Chinese industrial term for hardware “related to national interests, such as the military and public safety.” The nature of Xinwei’s involvement in Chinese military networks is unclear. Beijing is heavily focused on improving its strategic and operational-level communications, and has been for decades.

“The command automation data network can support domestic operations and conventional attack options along China’s borders,” Christopher Sterling and Cliff Lord noted in Military Communications: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century. “China still lags behind Western standards for controlling complex joint operations and lacks the robust architecture required to meet the demands of the modern battlefield.”

Part of Xinwei’s work with the PLA is in satellites. The company is working on a “wireless broadband platform” for the BeiDou system of navigation satellites — an alternative to the Global Positioning System and the Russian GLONASS. Xinwei is also working on a constellation of communications satellites. These could have military dual uses. And Xinwei has licenses to deal directly with the PLA, according to Confidencial.

But what does any of this have to do with the Nicaraguan canal? It has to do with who the beneficiaries of the project will be. As Nina Lakhani detailed in The Daily Beast, the project has blown up into a “mix of fury, fear and defiance not witnessed since the Contra War ended in 1988,” Lakhani wrote.

Chinese destroyer Qingdao at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sept. 6, 2006 (U.S. Navy photo).

Chinese destroyer Qingdao at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sept. 6, 2006 (U.S. Navy photo).

Nicaraguan activists are upset for several reasons. Not only because of inevitable land evictions to make way for the canal, but there’s the risk of environmental destruction — and allegations of Nicaraguan soldiers intimidating residents along the planned canal route.

“It’s less a concern about the Chinese military than it is an issue of transparency,” blogged James Bosworth, an analyst at Latin America advisory firm Southern Pulse. “If Nicaragua President Ortega has sold off the rights to the Canal to the Chinese government and military as a geopolitical project rather than a profitable development project for the country, then the Nicaraguan people have a right to know.”

There’s reasons to think the project is more the former than the latter. Not that there are no commercial interests for the canal project. But the fact that Beijing is leading the project and is the largest investor means it’s not simply about making money. A Nicaraguan canal would give China and alternative route if relations deteriorated to the point of an American blockade of Chinese shipping through Panama. A Nicaraguan canal could also be built to accommodate super-heavy containers used to ship agricultural products from Brazil to China, and Chinese goods in the opposite direction.

It’s worth noting the Panama Canal wasn’t simply about business when the United States constructed the corridor in the early 20th century. It was the means by which the U.S. would connect its coastlines and exercise naval supremacy over the Western Hemisphere. China’s canal in Nicaragua won’t amount to anything close to that. But it’s an insurance policy, and a foot into Central America.

Posted in China, English, International, Robert Beckhusen, Sea Powers | Leave a comment

Open for discussion: How the US Created the Islamic State

In a short video produced by Vice News and the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner states that the US unintentionally created the Islamic State (IS). He argues that a series of bad political and military-strategical choices – for example the decision to go to war in Iraq in the first place, the dissolution of the Iraqi security forces and the de-Ba’athisation during the US occupation, the humiliation of the Sunnis etc. – planted the seed for the creation of the IS. In fact, since the beginning of the US occupation there were different active offshoots of al-Qaeda in Iraq. IS’s brutality is fueled through Sunni insurgence, their hate against the former US occupiers and against the dominant, rivalling Shias.

Yes, the US invasion in Iraq was a stupid move by former US president George W. Bush. Plenty of decisions of the US during the campaign and the occupation in Iraq were terrible wrong. Even worse, the torture and prisoner abuses in Abu Ghraib represent a moral bankruptcy of the US. Nevertheless, Danner tells us only one aspect of the story. After the US occupation, the creation of IS wasn’t unavoidable and probably the Shia government under Nouri al-Maliki had even a greater impact on the creation of the Islamic State (see also the articles by Hauke Feickert). The Sunni “Sons of Iraq” were never integrated into the Iraqi Armed Forces, despite according promises and the Sunni dominated Anbar province remained underdeveloped. The powerful positions of Shiite politicians in the Iraqi government, Iraq’s political system is even a greater frustration for the Sunni – once more again, election alone makes no democracy.

evolution_of_the_ISAnother important point, which Danner doesn’t take into consideration is the effect of the civil war in Syria in the rising of IS. In Syria again, the Sunnis were one of the main targets of the operations conducted by Assad’s forces. According to a yesterday released publication of the Center for Security Studies at the ETH Zurich, the civil war in Syria gave IS a strategic depth in Iraq. Last but not least the poor morale of the Iraqi Armed Forces facilitated the strategic gains of IS in Northern Iraq.

Danner’s remarks are interesting, but the problem with such retrospective assessment is that afterwards all seems so clear. There is a suggestion of a direct causality from one to another decision, but that is the result of a personal interpretation. The final outcome today is only one possibility of many. When the US troops pulled out of Iraq, everybody knew the huge challenges the government in Iraq has to master — but at this time nobody could forecast the rise of the IS as a reasonable threat for the whole region.

Some people say that history repeats itself. Should that be true, then ask yourself what kind of seed US and NATO troops planted in Afghanistan. Will the Afghan government master the challenges ahead or will we see there another rise of a powerful terror organization in a few years?

Please write your opinion in the comment section below or on our Facebook page “Sicherheitspolitik“. Who is responsible for the creation of the IS? Who should now clean up the mess? Will history repeats itself in Afghanistan? Will we see another save heaven for terrorists in Afghanistan in a few years? How can we deal with this future threat?

More information
Mark Danner, “Iraq: The New War“, The New York Review of Books, September 25, 2003.

Posted in English, Iraq, Security Policy, Terrorism | 2 Comments

Iran’s Moudge Class Assembly at Bander Abbas

Satellite imagery from September 2014 shows new construction activity at a dry dock at Iran’s Bander Abbas naval base.

Satellite imagery from September 2014 shows new construction activity at a dry dock at Iran’s Bander Abbas naval base.

Digital Globe imagery shows Iran making progress assembling ship modules brought out to the dry dock in January. According to measurements taken on imagery, Iran appears to be constructing another Moudge class frigate. The incomplete boat was located adjacent to the Sahand, another vessel in the series, which is still in the process of being fitted out. The two 1,400 ton frigates will support Iran’s goal of projecting force beyond the Sea of Oman.

Experience operating beyond Iranian waters was highlighted most recently in the Iranian press with the country’s efforts fighting pirates off the Horn of Africa. Captain Hossein Sharifi-Nasab told IRNA in November that the navy had escorted over 2,000 commercial vessels in open waters.

Iran joined the international anti-piracy mission in 2008. Since then, Iran’s navy has confronted pirates on at least 150 different occasions in waters ranging from the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.

In 2007, the Iranian navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy were restructured with the latter put in charge of security in the strait. As a result, Iran’s traditional navy has been able to concentrate on areas that expand its naval influence.

The latest vessel shown in imagery at Bander Abbas is the fourth vessel under construction that will support Iran’s naval surface forces based in the Gulf. It’s these vessels that deploy further afield supporting Iran’s attempts to create a blue water force. Beyond the Gulf, another Moudge class, the Damavand — also previously known as the Velayet — was constructed on the Caspian at Shahid Tamjidi Marine Industries. Imagery as recent as August shows the boat still located near the floating dry dock at the Bander Anzali-based shipyard.

Military representatives quoted in Iran’s press said the Damavand went through sea trials in July. At the same time, Iran performed UAV tests on-board the vessel—though no reports indicated the type of UAV used.

DG (03AUG12) Khorramshahr

In the meantime, some additional information regarding the Moudge vessel previously observed at the ISOICO shipyard near Bander Abbas has emerged. A review of historical imagery suggests that the hull is actually the Moudge under construction at Khorramshahr. Accordingly, the Khorramshahr-based shipyard has no substantive support equipment to construct the vessel and must therefore utilize equipment at other shipyards. The hull shown in imagery from August 2012 (above) can no longer be observed on 2013 or 2014 imagery.

Although Iran announced that it would build 7 of the ships, only 5 thus far have been confirmed on imagery. The hull at the ISOICO shipyard is now thought to be back inside the fabrication shop.

Iran’s Moudge class are based on the British 1960’s Alvand class (Vosper Mk 5). The vessels measure approximately 94 m in length, displace around 1,400 tons and feature a helicopter flight deck. Armaments include a 76mm gun forward and a 40mm gun aft, torpedoes and four Chinese C-802 surface-to-surface missiles. The lead boat, the Jamaran, was launched in 2007 at Bander Abbas and has been in operation since 2010. The boats represent another important milestone for Iranian self-sufficiency in the indigenous manufacture and repair of military equipment, a priority since the Iran-Iraq war.

Posted in Chris B, English, International, Iran, Sea Powers | Leave a comment