China's new law, authorizing non-peaceful means of countering any secessionist effort by Taiwan, raises questions about Beijing's intentions, and about what, if anything, the U.S. would do to stop an imminent threat to Taiwan.
THE UPCOMING U.S. QUADRENNIAL DEFENSE REVIEW
The Bush administration's upcoming Quadrennial Review of U.S. Defense Policy will set the framework for the Pentagon's development for the next four years. Senior officers see a go-it-alone strategy with a heavy emphasis on special operations at the expense of conventional war-fighting capabilities.(Brian Bender, Boston Globe, March 10, 2005)
HERITAGE FOUNDATION SEES A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE PENTAGON
The 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) should be quite different from past reports because of the unique conditions under which it is being conducted. By applying lessons learned from recent operations, new analytical tools, and strong, experienced leadership, the 2005 QDR has the opportunity to yield a report that will provide relevant guidance for years to come. (Heritage Foundation, March 11, 2005)
THE DEFENSE STRATEGY REVIEW PAGE OF THE PROJECT ON DEFENSE ALTERNATIVES
A comprehensive review of issues likely to affect the Quadrennial Review
CHINA BUILDS UP ITS MILITARY AND SENDS A WARNING TO TAIWAN
New legislation signed by China's People's Congress on Monday gives the government authorization to attack Taiwan if it attempts to unilaterally declare independence. Kenneth Lieberthal and Arthur Waldron discuss possible motives on the Jim Lehrer News Hour (PBS, March 14, 2005)
CHALMERS JOHNSON ON COMING TO TERMS WITH CHINA
The major question for the twenty-first century is whether this fateful inability to adjust to changes in the global power-structure can be overcome. Thus far the signs are negative. Can the United States and Japan, today's versions of rich, established powers, adjust to the reemergence of China -- the world's oldest, continuously extant civilization -- this time as a modern superpower? Or is China's ascendancy to be marked by yet another world war, when the pretensions of European civilization in its U.S. and Japanese projections are finally put to rest? That is what is at stake..." (Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch.com, March 15, 2005)
THE EUROPEAN UNION'S BALANCING ACT: SELLING ARMS TO BEIJINGThe European Union plans to lift its arms sales embargo on China within the next few months. But the move may well exacerbate Europe's relationship not only with the United States but with Japan as well. (Frank Ching analyzes the situation for the Jamestown Foundation, March 15, 2005)
THE U.S. UNDERWRITES $5 BILLION SALE OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS TO CHINA
On the surface, it's the biggest deal in the history of the Export-Import Bank of the United States - US$5 billion to finance the building of Chinese nuclear power plants by US firms in the energy-starved economic giant. But there's much more to it than big business: closer scrutiny and interviews with experts reveal a weak, inconsistent and ultimately dangerous US policy with regard to China and its past (some say present) weapons proliferation, as well as China's own efforts to acquire nuclear reactors and other Western high technology that could be passed on to less-than-responsible states. (Kaushik Kapisthalam, Asia Times, March 11, 2005)
ENERGY COMPETITION DRIVES INDIA CLOSER TO IRAN, VENESUELA, SUDAN AND MYANMAR
India's quest for securing energy could re-shape South Asia's geopolitical landscape and affect India's diplomatic relations, particularly with the United States. When it comes to securing oil supplies, human rights takes a back seat, although India might profit more from improving ties with the U.S. (Pramit Mitra, YaleGlobal, March 14, 2005)
STREET GANGS AND INSURGENCY
Although there are differences between gangs and insurgents regarding motives and modes of operations, it is possible to infer that gang phenomena are mutated forms of urban insurgency. In these terms, these “new” nonstate actors must eventually seize political power in order to guarantee the freedom of action and the commercial environment they want. (Dr. Max G. Manwaring, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, March 2005)
GAO REPORTS THAT U.S. INFORMATION ON IRAQ SECURITY FORCES IS UNRELIABLE
The General Accounting Office notes that the insurgency in Iraq has intensified since June 2003, and is becoming more sophisticated. The number of attacks grew in number, intensity and complexity through January 2005. According to the GAO, U.S. Agencies have reported inaccurate data on the number of Iraqis equipped and trained, mostly because the Iraqi police are not reporting accurate numbers themselves. Further complicating the issue, the Pentagon and State Department no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are armed. (GAO, March 14, 2005-report GAO-05-431T)
-Full report (23 pages)
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: AN IRAQI VIEW OF LOCAL DEFENSE FORCES
At least in private conversation, Iraqi officials are frank about leadership problems, corruption, and a lack of experience... At the same time, the Iraqis actually involved in shaping Iraq’s new forces are scarcely pessimistic. Most believe that Iraqi forces are growing steadily better with time, will acquire the experience and quality to deal with much of the insurgency during 2005, and should be able to secure much of the country by 2006. (Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 10, 2005-20 pages pdf)
SECURITY FOR THE CASPIAN SEA OIL FINDS
U.S. Ambassador Steven Mann, chief U.S. diplomat covering the massive Caspian Sea energy discoveries, briefs on U.S. policy on Caspian oil and gas in the light of recent regional developments. (This is a downloadable audio WAV file, Steven Mann, the Jamestown Foundation, March 10, 2005)
Noah Leavitt, writing in FindLaw.com, notes that the Bush administration has tended to see international laws and treaties as fluid concepts which the president can ignore or circumvent at will. By doing so, however, the Bush administration may be placing American citizens in danger when traveling abroad. that may explain why the Supreme Court has finally begun to assert itself.(Noah Leavitt, FindLaw.com, March 14, 2005)
An Iraqi soldier surveys a new oil fire set by insurgents near Kirkuk. While the war is costly to U.S. taxpayers and many Iraqis, some are finding the continuing conflict very profitable.
ARMY ALLEGEDLY FAILED TO INVESTIGATE KICKBACK SCANDAL
Ken Silverstein and T. Christian Miller report in the Los Angeles Times that the F.B.I. is now investigating a possible scandal in which a task force headed by U.S. Lieutenant General David Petraeus, may have ignored warnings of kickbacks in the administration of interim Prime Minister Allawi. According to the report, Dale Stoffel, a U.S. contractor working on a $283 million project to equip the neophyte Iraqi Army with a new tank division, repeatedly tried to warn top U.S. officials that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials. But senior U.S. military officials neglected to act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews. "If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to U.S. General David Petraeus. Eight days later, Stoffel was shot dead in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to people who have been interviewed by the bureau. (Ken Silverstein and T. Christian Miller, The Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2005)
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL REPORTS IRAQ MAY BECOME BIGGEST CORRUPTION SCANDAL IN HISTORY
Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, bribery has taken place at all levels of government while officials within the Coalition Provisional Authority, contractors and ministry staff have admitted to corruption.
According to Transparency International, the former regime's control of the economy left a legacy of corruption which survived its collapse.
However, the body is critical of the United States' handling of the reconstruction process, arguing that its process for awarding public contracts was secretive and favoured a small number of large firms.
Its comments echo those of the International Advistory and Monitoring Board, a United Nations body, which in December criticised the CPA for awarding contracts to oil services firm Halliburton and other firms without a competitive process. (BBC, March 16, 2005)
--Transparency International Report hilights and link to full report
MARK UP: THE LATEST HALLIBURTON SCANDAL
According to a report by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, Halliburton allegedly charged more than $27 million to deliver Liquid Petroleum Gas which it had purchased in Kuwait for $82,000. Understandably embarrassed since the contract went to Dick Cheney's former company without competitive bidding, the Pentagon apparently shelved the report until Democratic Congressmen got hold of it. [The report and Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell's letter to George W. Bush, concerning Halliburton are available from pogo.org (project on government oversight), March 14,2005]
--Photocopy of the Defense Contract Audit Agency's report
--Letter from Reps. Henry Waxman and John Dingell concerning Halliburton's continuing scandals
--Background in Washington Post (March 15, 2005)
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