Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Real Problems in The World

Trump is, well, a freaking disaster when it comes to pretty much everything but especially foreign policy.  One of the less obvious ways he is fucking up discussions of foreign policy is not the possibility that realism might become tainted, but that we don't notice important stuff.  So, a quick run of the news and what we are missing by focusing on the epic dumpster fire train wreck (imagine a train of dumpster fires derailing) that is Donnie.
  • Indonesia seems ready to start a war in the South China Seas as it is promising to sink more than 70 foreign fishing boats.  I cannot claim to be an expert on anything in the Pacific, at least not until I spend a month in Japan, but, to this amateur's eyes, this does not look good.  China is already riled up over losing the adjudication decision.  This will be some kind of independence day for Indonesia--starting a war!  Woot!  No, not woot.  Most of the impounded ships are not Chinese, but some are.  Apparently destroying impounded ships is nothing new, but a grand symbolic gesture?  Right now, after China's big loss?   Not good.  The link above has a great gif showing the various claims and trends.  
  • Russia just bombed Syria via planes based in ... Iran.  This is NEW and completely unnecessary.  The latter first: Russia can and has been bombing Syria from planes based in Russia and in Syria.  Russia does not need bases in Iran for that chore.  The former: no foreign troops have been based in Iran since ... 1979.  So, Iran is compromising slightly on its tradition of robust independence since the revolution by letting the Russians fly out from its territory.  A great way to say "screw you" to the US.  The Russia-Iran friendship, largely built on keeping Assad in power and a shared interest in undermining US interests in the region is now becoming an alliance.  A couple of key implications are:
    • Iraq once again has let the Russians use its airspace.  Sure, Iraq has no anti-aircraft capability, but the symbolic stuff is important.  And this symbolic stuff says: Iraq is heavily influenced by Iran and is willing to do stuff that contradicts the US even though the US is spending a heap of resources helping Iraq take back its territory from ISIS.  
    • It might must provide some support for ye olde Iran nuclear deal.  Remember, the sanctions required multilateral support, especially Russia's.  If there were no deal, would Russia be sanctioning Iran today?  My guess is that the sanctions regime would have broken by now.  So, we got a decent agreement before the chances for one disappeared.
    • The NYT is overreaching---calling Russia the "primary broker in the region."  Please.  US still has heaps of influence, friends and allies in the region.  Russia is a significant spoiler, but the US is still the biggest player.
  •  Canada is still trying to figure out where to make its new peace operations commitment with MND Sajjan on a tour of Africa.  I will try to remember to write tomorrow for why Canada should focus on Haiti and/or Colombia.
  • Brexit?  I have no idea the state of play there, but then again, does anyone else?
I am sure there are heaps of other hotspots and crises that are getting too little attention, but that is a quick tour of the stuff that our Trump focus is causing us to miss.

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