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NATO ???

Yesterday in Brussels, NATO kicked off a yearlong process to draft a new strategic concept. The last strategic concept was adopted a decade ago at the Washington Summit marking the alliance’s 50th anniversary, when NATO was at war in what turned out to be a 78-day bombing campaign to stop Serbia and its autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic’s ruthless campaign of slaughter in Kosovo labeled mildly as ethnic cleansing. But, in many ways, the challenges today are greater than at any time in NATO’s 60-year history.

For one thing, NATO’s success led to a complete dissolution of the enemy it was created to deter, contain and defeat when the Soviet Union imploded two decades ago. Yet, NATO still remains a military alliance directed against very diaphanous and different threats. Thus, NATO has been struggling for a raison d’etre that recognizes traditional defense does not fit the broader security challenges and dangers that are in evidence, all the while expanding from 19 to 28 member nations.

The centerpiece of the alliance rests in Article V of the Washington Treaty: an attack on one in Europe or North America constitutes an attack against all. In conducting its business, consensus, meaning unanimity in agreement, has been the modus operandi. However, the definition of threat is not universally shared as many NATO members are more comfortable with traditional and proximate notions of territorial defense than with the newer expeditionary missions that have taken the alliance to its first ground war ever in Afghanistan, and with new threats from cyberattack and protection of critical infrastructure to responding to huge disasters whether of man or nature. And make no mistake. The future credibility and cohesion of the alliance rests on how well or how badly Afghanistan turns out — in any event likely to prove a “close run thing.”

Beyond these profound changes in the security environment, NATO must come to grips with other tough issues. In virtually all member states, defense spending is declining in difficult economic times. NATO’s bureaucratic organization is sclerotic and needs major overhaul. And in dealing with this array of daunting issues, as outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Army Gen. John Craddock has outspokenly observed, “NATO’s political leadership is often AWOL.”

The Leninist question of “what is to be done?” now confronts the alliance in developing a new strategic concept. But not everything is negative. NATO has proven to be the most successful military alliance in history. It has the best armed forces in the world, many of whom have seen active combat in Afghanistan and some in Iraq. And France, under the leadership of President Nicolas Sarkozy, has rejoined the military command structure.

A new leadership is taking over in the key leadership positions. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will become the new secretary-general later this fall. U.S. Adm. James Stavridis is the new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the first time a navy admiral has held that position. And in September, French Air Force Gen. Stephane Abrial will assume the duties of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, Va., becoming the first non-American ever to hold that post.

Furthermore, NATO has just completed a major study on “Joint Futures” means to sketch out the range of threats facing the alliance from conventional to the more exotic, a very good first step in helping the alliance think through the nature of the dangers it is prepared to counter. Clearly, the shift from a defense-based to a broader security-based alliance is essential. However, given domestic politics in the 28 member states, while intellectually straightforward, if not done carefully, this transformation could be the political equivalent of leaping across the Grand Canyon in two single bounds.

In negotiating this transformation from defense to security as the basis for the alliance, history offers a tempting way forward. In the mid-1960s, the alliance was divided over conventional defense versus nuclear deterrence. With growing Soviet capabilities in both conventional and nuclear forces, the United States argued for stressing the former. The European allies, not wanting either a conventional war in their back yards or having to spend more on conventional forces, favored nuclear deterrence. The solution was “flexible response.”

Originally meant to defend across the entire conflict spectrum, the political brilliance of flexible response was that it allowed both sides of the Atlantic to emphasize their strategic preferences, relieving this political tension. What is needed is a new version of flexible response that enables member states to focus on the threats each view as most critical so the alliance is not forced into strategic platitudes or fundamental deadlock over the rationale underpinning the alliance. If this balance can be achieved, NATO could have at least another 60 years left. If not, we could end up reinventing an unsatisfactory replacement structure.

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Africa – China ( Cultural Revolution ) part 1

The railroad—known as the Tazara line—was built by China in the early 1970s, at a cost of nearly $500 million, an extraordinary expenditure in the thick of the Cultural Revolution, and a symbol of Beijing’s determination to hold its own with Washington and Moscow in an era when Cold War competition over Africa raged fierce. At the time of its construction, it was the third-largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Africa, after the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Volta Dam in Ghana.

Today the Tazara is a talisman of faded hopes and failed economic schemes, an old and unreliable railway with too few working locomotives. Only briefly a thriving commercial artery, it has been diminished by its own decay and by the roads and air routes that have sprung up around it. Maintenance costs have saddled Tanzania and Zambia with debts reportedly as high as $700 million in total, and the line now has only about 300 of the 2,000 wagons it needs to function normally, according to Zambian news reports.

Yet the railway traces a path through a region where hopes have risen again, rekindled by a new sort of development also driven by China—and on an unprecedented scale. All across the continent, Chinese companies are signing deals that dwarf the old railroad project. The most heavily reported involve oil production; since the turn of the millennium, Chinese companies have muscled in on lucrative oil markets in places like Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, and Sudan. But oil is neither the largest nor the fastest-growing part of the story. Chinese firms are striking giant mining deals in places like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and building what is being touted as the world’s largest iron mine in Gabon. They are prospecting for land on which to build huge agribusinesses. And to get these minerals and crops to market, they are building major new ports and thousands of miles of highway.

In most of Africa’s capital cities and commercial centers, it’s hard to miss China’s new presence and influence. In Dar, one morning before my train trip, I made my way to the roof of my hotel for a bird’s-eye view of the city below. A British construction foreman, there to oversee the hotel’s expansion, pointed out the V-shaped port that the British navy had seized after a brief battle with the Germans early in the First World War. From there, the British-built portion of the city extended primly inland, along a handful of long avenues. For the most part, downtown Dar was built long ago, and its low-slung concrete buildings, long exposed to the moisture of the tropics, have taken on a musty shade of gray.

“Do you see all the tall buildings coming up over there?” the foreman asked, a hint of envy in his voice as his arm described an arc along the waterfront that shimmered in the distance. “That’s the new Dar es Salaam, and most of it is Chinese-built.”

I counted nearly a dozen large cranes looming over construction sites along the beachfront Msasani Peninsula, a sprawl of resorts and restaurants catering mostly to Western tourists. Near them, sheltered coyly behind high walls, lie upscale brothels worked by Chinese prostitutes. In the foreground, to the northwest, sits Kariakoo, a crowded slum where Chinese merchants flog refrigerators, air conditioners, mobile phones, and other cheap gadgets from narrow storefronts. To the south lies Tanzania’s new, state-of-the-art, 60,000-seat national sports stadium, funded by China and opened in February 2009 by President Hu Jintao.

“Statistics are hard to come by, but China is probably the biggest single investor in Africa,” said Martyn Davies, the director of the China Africa Network at the University of Pretoria. “They are the biggest builders of infrastructure. They are the biggest lenders to Africa, and China-Africa trade has just pushed past $100 billion annually.”

Davies calls the Chinese boom “a phenomenal success story for Africa,” and sees it continuing indefinitely. “Africa is the source of at least one-third of the world’s commodities”—commodities China will need, as its manufacturing economy continues to grow—“and once you’ve understood that, you understand China’s determination to build roads, ports, and railroads all over Africa.”

Davies is not alone in his enthusiasm. “No country has made as big an impact on the political, economic and social fabric of Africa as China has since the turn of the millennium,” writes Dambisa Moyo, a London-based economist, in her influential book, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. Moyo, a 40-year-old Zambian who has worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and as a consultant for the World Bank, believes that foreign aid is a curse that has crippled and corrupted Africa—and that China offers a way out of the mess the West has made.

“Between 1970 and 1998,” she writes, “when aid flows to Africa were at their peak, poverty in Africa rose from 11 percent to a staggering 66 percent.” Subsidized lending, she says, encourages African governments to make sloppy, wasteful decisions. It breeds corruption, by allowing politicians to siphon off poorly monitored funds. And it forestalls national development, which she says begins with the building of a taxation system and the attraction of foreign commercial capital. In Moyo’s view, even the West’s “obsession with democracy” has been harmful. In poor countries, she writes, “democratic regimes find it difficult to push through economically beneficial legislation amid rival parties and jockeying interests.” Sustainable democracy, she feels, is possible only after a strong middle class has emerged.

In its recent approach to Africa, China could not be more different from the West. It has focused on trade and commercially justified investment, rather than aid grants and heavily subsidized loans. It has declined to tell African governments how they should run their countries, or to make its investments contingent on government reform. And it has moved quickly and decisively, especially in comparison to many Western aid establishments. Moyo’s attitude toward the boom in Chinese business in Africa is amply revealed by the name of a chapter in her book: “The Chinese Are Our Friends.” Perhaps what Africa needs, she notes, is a reliable commercial partner, not a high-minded scold. And perhaps Africa should take its lessons from a country that has recently pulled itself out of poverty, not countries that have been rich for generations.

“I would say this is a transformational moment for Africa,” Moyo told me from London last spring. “I see the explosive development of infrastructure. I see people producing more food and having more jobs … And besides, I don’t see how otherwise you are going to get a civil society, except by building up a middle class.”

Even taking the recent global downturn into account, this has been a hopeful time for a historically downtrodden continent. Per capita income for sub-Saharan Africa nearly doubled between 1997 and 2008, driven up by a long boom in commodities, by a decrease in the prevalence of war, and by steady improvements in governance. And while the downturn has brought commodity prices low for the time being, there is a growing sense that the world’s poorest continent has become a likely stage for globalization’s next act. To many, China—cash-rich, resource-hungry, and unfickle in its ardor—now seems the most likely agent for this change.

But of course, Africa has had hopeful moments before, notably in the early 1960s, at the start of the independence era, when many governments opted for large, state-owned economic schemes that quickly foundered, and again in the 1970s, another era of booming commodity prices, when rampant corruption, heavy debt, and armed conflict doomed any hopes of economic takeoff.

China’s burgeoning partnership with Africa raises several momentous questions: Is a hands-off approach to governmental affairs the right one? Can Chinese money and ambition succeed where Western engagement has manifestly failed? Or will China become the latest in a series of colonial and neocolonial powers in Africa, destined like the others to leave its own legacy of bitterness and disappointment? I was heading south on the Tazara—through the past and into the future, to the sites of some of China’s most ambitious efforts on the continent—to try to get some early sense of how the whole grand project was proceeding.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Africa, China, Travel & Tourism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment