The current state of al-Qaeda.

The successive killings in 2011 and 2012 of Osama bin Laden; Anwar al-Awlaki, the movement’s chief propagandist; and Abu Yahya al-Libi, its second-in-command, lent new weight to the optimists’ predictions that al-Qaeda was a spent force. In retrospect, however, it appears that al-Qaeda was among the regional forces that benefited most from the Arab Spring’s tumult. Seven years later, Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged as a powerful leader, with a strategic vision that he has systematically implemented. Forces loyal to al-Qaeda and its affiliates now number in the tens of thousands, with a capacity to disrupt local and regional stability, as well as launch attacks against their declared enemies in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Russia. Indeed, from northwestern Africa to southeastern Asia, al-Qaeda has knit together a global movement of more than two dozen franchises. In Syria alone, al-Qaeda now has upwards of twenty thousand men under arms, and it has perhaps another four thousand in Yemen and about seven thousand in Somalia.

The author is Bruce Hoffman and you can read the rest here.

The seen and the unseen with steel tariffs.

We’ve seen this before. In 2002, President George W. Bush implemented his own steel tariffs. As expected, the taxes jacked up the price of domestic steel and temporarily boosted the industry’s profits. Steel-consuming industries, however, weren’t so lucky. According to an estimatefrom the nonpartisan Trade Partnership Worldwide, a staggering 200,000 people lost their jobs in downstream industries by the following year. That’s more workers than the entire steel industry had at the time.

The author is Veronique de Rugy and the rest can be found in the NYT.

Russia and Status

The WAPO David Ignatius has an interesting piece discussing what motivates Putin and his belligerence.

On a deeper level, Putin’s speech was a plea for attention by a leader who sees himself avenging his nation’s humiliation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite Putin’s wounded, chip-on-the-shoulder posture, this struck me as the core of his address, and worth a well-considered response.

 

The crux of Putin’s argument is that Russia was ignored during its years of weakness and is only taken seriously now because it looks threatening. Putin recounted that before he took power, “the military equipment of the Russian army was becoming obsolete, and the armed forces were in a sorry state.” With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he said, “the nation had lost 23.8 percent of its territory, 48.5 percent of its population, 41 percent of its gross domestic product and 44.6 percent of its military capability.

 

“Nobody really wanted to talk to us about the core of the problem [of the nuclear-weapons balance], and nobody wanted to listen to us. So listen now,” he demanded.

You can read the rest here.

Trump versus Xi’s worldview.

Xi’s worldview is as follows.

In the world according to Xi, authoritarian rule has trumped democracy as a superior model. He wants to export it to willing countries as an alternative to democracy. He is shrewdly wooing them by dazzling leaders with roads and railways paid for with cash China earned from the West. At home, he has whipped up nationalism and pride among the population by distributing rice and cooking oil in villages, raising living standards, supersizing the country’s infrastructure, and masking his toppling of political foes as a fight against corruption. Aside from opposing factions and some in the intelligentsia, every mainlander I have met worships Xi.

Trump, however, offers the following.

In the world according to Trump, exporting American goods supersedes exporting democracy. Instead of showering countries with American largesse, he has spooked them and allies alike with threats that the US will no longer be a sucker by policing the world at its own expense. He wants allies and others fearful of an authoritarian state becoming the dominant global power to pay their share for security. He wants the world to acquiesce to his demand to make America great again. Patriotism is an inborn American trait. But, instead of uniting the people through nationalism, he has divided them through politics.

The author then asks

So, which gives you the jitters, Trump’s world or Xi’s? Before you answer, think cold war, not trade wars. A cold war is already in the making. Those who don’t see it are in a state of denial.

You can read the rest here.

Dressmakers, Bakers, and the Equality of Rights.

The paper’s abstract is below and the author is Michael McConnell of Stanford.

Using recent examples involving dressmakers refusing to create designs for the First Lady at the Trump inauguration, this paper explains why Masterpiece Cakeshop should be decided in favor the baker who refuses to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony, and why this should be understanding as an equality of rights, rather than prioritizing free speech over nondiscrimination.

Here is one bit.

Like an inaugural gown, a wedding cake is an expression of its designer’s “values” and “point of view”—even if the dress contains no words and no symbols specifically referring to Trump. It is the event at which the dress (or cake) would be used that supplies the expressive context—not necessarily anything particular to the dress (or cake). Like dress designers, Phillips distinguishes between selling off-the-shelf items to a customer on a retail basis and “making one-of-a-kind garments [or cakes] for individuals.”

 

And just as there are many designers “who would happily, and without reservation, create a splendid wardrobe for the first lady,” the record in the Colorado case shows that there were dozens of bakers in close proximity to Masterpiece Cakeshop who would happily create a cake for their occasion. This means there is no practical burden on Melania or on the couple from the denial of service—only the insult that comes from knowing that another human being disapproves, which is precisely what the dressmaker and the baker wish to communicate, and the government has no right to prevent.

You can read the rest here.

The Philosophy of Xi Jinping.

Provided by the The Strait Times, they are…

 

1. Ensuring Party leadership over all work.

2. Committing to a people-centred approach.

3. Continuing to comprehensively deepen reform.

4. Adopting a new vision for development.

5. Seeing that the people run the country.

6. Ensuring every dimension of governance is law-based.

7. Upholding core socialist values.

8. Ensuring and improving living standards through development.

9. Ensuring harmony between human and nature.

10. Pursuing a holistic approach to national security.

11. Upholding absolute Party leadership over the people’s forces.

12. Upholding the principle of “one country, two systems” and promoting national reunification.

13. Promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

14. Exercising full and rigorous governance over the Party.

 

 

India, Vietnam deepen ties on N-energy, trade, agriculture

NEW DELHI: India and Vietnam agreed to cooperate on nuclear energy, trade and agriculture as Prime Minister Narendra Modiheld talks with the President of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang here on Saturday. Vietnam is one of India’s closest strategic partners in the Asean region.
The two sides decided to explore co-development projects in defence sector and boost ties in oil and gas exploration, including with third countries. “We will jointly work for an open, independent and prosperous Indo Pacific region where sovereignty and international laws are respected and where differences are resolved through talks,” Modi said in remarks to the media.

 

In response, the Vietnam President said it supports India’s multi-faceted connectivity with Asean, adding there should be freedom of navigation and over flights in the region. While India, the US and several other world powers have been pressing for resolution of the dispute on the basis of international law under UNCLOS, China has favoured a bilateral framework with different countries. Modi said India and Vietnam will also look for a trilateral partnership in the oil and gas sector. India already has two blocks for oil exploration in the South China Sea (SCS), despite criticism from China.

That is one bit form the Indian Times.

China is indeed a partial power with many natural rivals in its own neighborhood. A Vietnamese-Indian alliances is just one element complicating the Chinese pursuit of regional hegemony.

The rest can be read here.

 

“What Has $49 Billion in Foreign Military Aid Bought Us? Not Much”

…Such docility might be good industrial policy—after all, it creates jobs in key congressional districts, provides corporate welfare for America’s defense companies, and helps maintain the defense industrial base. But it makes for lousy foreign policy. The United States will continue to pour money down a rat hole until Congress and the executive branch better understand why these problems keep recurring and muster the political will to fix them. Based on our experience in the State Department, here is our diagnosis of the problem and some remedies for what ails U.S. military assistance in the Middle East.

The context is American aid to our Middle East allies and the compliant is that despite the large amount of aid distributed year after year, the United States seems to have very little control over the domestic politics of the recipients.

Here is one bit.

A second and related problem is that the U.S. government does a poor job of holding allies and clients to account for behavior that runs counter to American interests. There is no systematic review of what U.S. military assistance accomplishes. The key questions that rarely get asked, let alone answered, are what does the U.S. want and expect from the assistance we provide and how does this aid help or hurt America’s ability to achieve these goals?  If the U.S. cannot identify actions that the recipient would not have otherwise taken as a result of this assistance, then it is nothing more than a welfare program, and has two pernicious effects. First, it encourages “moral hazard”—recipients to do whatever they want with the assistance without having to fear the consequences of their actions. Second, it creates “reverse leverage”— Washington bends over backwards to keep relations smooth and the assistance flowing, rather than leverage the recipient’s dependence on U.S. military support and political commitments.

You can read the rest here.

“Netherlands becoming a narco-state, warn Dutch police”

That is the headline from the Guardian.

Here is one bit.

A large majority of ecstasy taken in Europe and the US comes from labs in the south of the country, which are increasingly run by Moroccan gangs involved in the production of cannabis. Half of the €5.7bn a year of cocaine taken in Europe comes through the port of Rotterdam, according to Europol.

You can read the rest here.