Sunday Foreign Edition

If I’m disciplined enough, every Sunday I’ll post a round-up of foreign pieces I found thought-provoking from the past week.  Here’s the first installment.


H.D.S. Greenway at the International Herald Tribune says we need to go softly-softly with Pakistan to get cooperation.

Michael Scheuer at The Diplomat, in a similar vein, does not like the U.S. foreign policy shift from Pakistan to India.

My own thoughts on the issue are already published.  I personally believe that India makes the better ally, and taking a hard line with Pakistan and demonstrating that we have other options for regional allies will make it clear that they either cooperate more closely or become isolated.

Gwynne Dyer at the Japan Times says Afghanistan is now a civil war.

Robert Blackwill at the Times of India lays out his case (for the nth time) on partitioning Afghanistan, a position I find seductive.

Finally, Foreign Policy has a year-end round-up of articles from its AfPak division that you might have missed.


Meir Javedanfar at The Guardian says Iran’s decision to reform subsidies as part of its drive to scrape together more military funding will destabilize the regime.

Hamid Dabashi at CNN disagrees, saying the regime looks pretty stable, and politically, the move is likely to push the Greens back on their heels.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: old men with guns beat young kids with ideas.  In theory, subsidy reform will improve the lot of Iranians AND free up more money for military buys, but even if it doesn’t, bet on the Revolutionary Guard to keep its grip on things.


Edward Luttwak at Foreign Policy applauds Seoul’s tough line with North Korea, saying it will be a strong South Korean deterrent.

John Cushman at The Atlantic agrees, and says a U.S. deterrent is crucial to maintaining peace on the peninsula.

Andrei Lankov at the Financial Times is less confident, saying North Korea will strike again.

Bruce Klingner at the Los Angeles Times believes the next provocation from North Korea will be a nuclear weapons test.

What do I think?  Deterrence has failed, and must be made to work again.  North Korea will strike again.  The South’s only chance of re-establishing a credible commitment to deterrence is to hit back.  At that point either Pyongyang gets the message and stands down or we’re off to the races.  If I were a U.S. Marine slumming it among insurgents in Central Asia, I’d hope for the latter– it’s not often you get to fight alongside a force as hardcore as the ROK’s, and even rarer to square off against someone with working tank divisions, hoo-ah.  I do not believe North Korea has a nuclear weapon over a few kilotons.


David Ignatius at The Washington Post deplores the collapse of Russian democracy.  (The letter from Sergey Kolesnikov is also worth reading).

Anders Aslund at the Moscow Times delicately avoids pointing fingers, but notes that corruption is ruining Russia’s economy.

Fyodor Lukyanov at the Moscow Times says Russia has turned away from its imperialist track.  I take what he says with a large grain of salt.

My take: Russia is too far gone and too far away to change.  Maybe historians will argue over who lost Russia, but for now we need to find a modus vivendi with the Kremlin’s kleptocrats.


Der Spiegel reports on Mexico’s steady descent into a drug cartel dominated hellscape.

Kevis Casas-Zamora at Foreign Policy says the way out of hell is to reduce the emphasis on the military and reform the police and judicial system.

I like Casas-Zamora’s take, but I’m pessimistic either way.  The U.S. needs to consider legalizing pot.

Thats all.  See you next week.

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