Myanmar: A Fight For Democracy Against the February 1 Coup

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2021

This article is by an anonymous university student in Myanmar (Burma) who is currently supporting the pro-democracy social movements there against the February 1 coup. Anonymity has been granted to the author due to the threat against his person that might result from a byline.

Pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar (Burma) following the February 1, 2021 coup.

On March 15th, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) announced that they moved Myanmar (Burma) to the “Current Crisis” category, as populations here face crimes against humanity perpetrated by military coup leaders, known as the Junta. That followed the  the March 2 announcement by civil society groups of the Myanmar Military as a terrorist group. Their legitimacy and tactics are, in fact, those of terrorists rather than a government, as they have attacked democratically-elected government officials, and shot randomly into people’s homes in an attempt to quell a rising social movement in defense of President U Win Myint, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, other government officials, and civil society leaders. Continue reading

Yemen: Carnage or Strategy? What is the War Really About?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2021

By William R. Hawkins

Map of Yemen’s insurgency, according to published reports. Pink: Controlled by Hadi-led government. Green: Controlled by Revolutionary Committee. Tan: Controlled by Southern Transitional Council. White: Controlled by Ansar al-Sharia/AQAP forces. Grey: Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Blue: Controlled by local, non-aligned forces like the Hadhramaut Tribal Alliance. Salmon: Controlled by forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh. Source: Ali Zifan.

Every new President is challenged by foreign adversaries early in their term to test how U.S. policy may change with a new administration. Iran did not wait long to send its proxies into combat against American forces and allies. In Iraq, Shiite militia groups launched rockets attacks which wounded several Americans. On February 26, President Joe Biden sent air strikes against several related militia targets in Syria in retaliation. This seemed a continuation of President Donald Trump’s policy of muscular deterrence inaugurated by the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, while he was meeting with Iraqi militia leaders on January 3, 2020. President Biden sent a further message of deterrence to Tehran with a show of force by two B-52 strategic bombers escorted by Israeli fighters. The connection was important because an Israeli ship docked in Dubai was bombed by terrorists suspected of working for Iran on February 25.  

In Yemen, Iran’s proxy Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks by drones and ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia, targeting both population centers and oil industry targets. Every few days, another barrage is launched. On March 7, Houthi Brigadier Yahya Sareea claimed the group had fired 14 drones and eight missiles at Ras Tanura, one of the world’s biggest oil ports, and other targets near their border. In retaliation, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi renewed their air campaign in Yemen with strikes at the rebel-held capital of Sana’a and other key targets. The coalition had pulled back on their air strikes due to pressure from the U.S., but restraint by Riyad and Washington has only encouraged the rebels. Continue reading

“Winning” the Geopolitical Competition with China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 2, February 2021

By Randall H. Cook

Source: Wikimedia

By all accounts, the U.S.-China strategic competition is alive and well.  The news that China displaced the United States in 2020 as the world’s preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was followed closely by publication of a new “Longer Telegram” proposing a U.S. whole of government strategy to contain PRC Premier Xi Jinping’s ambition to realign the geopolitical structure with China as the new fulcrum.  The Biden Administration has sharply changed tack from its predecessor on a range of policies.  But on China, there is remarkable continuity.  The Trump Administration reset the U.S. strategic paradigm and there will be no going back.  Complex interdependent engagement is out; realist bipolar competition is the name of the new (but really, a back to the future sort of) game.

This framing tends to draw commentators and policy makers into some familiar debates and blind alleys.  Shouldn’t the U.S. oppose Chinese influence everywhere and always?  Isn’t every Chinese advantage necessarily a U.S. loss?  If the U.S. has fallen behind in the FDI race, this conventional wisdom holds, then the U.S. must “do something” to win back the FDI flow.  While this elegant approach to ‘keeping score” in the geopolitical competition is intuitively appealing, it fails to account for a real world that, in fact, remains dynamic and complex.  Worse, it leads to a reactive approach to interpreting events and choosing strategies that ultimately will disadvantage the U.S. in the ways that matter most. Continue reading

NATO and Beyond: President Trump Revitalized Our Alliances

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2021

By William R. Hawkins

US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting during the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Photo by Carl Court / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

The new NATO 2030: United for a New Era report shows how President Donald Trump has reinvigorated the West’s central international security alliance. It proclaims, “the main characteristic of the current security environment is the re-emergence of geopolitical competition – that is, the profusion and escalation of state-based rivalries and disputes over territory, resources, and values.” This reflects the 2018 National Defense Strategy issued by the U.S. Department of Defense which saw America “emerging from a period of strategic atrophy” into a world of “increased global disorder” where Great Power competition with Russia and China is the major challenge facing the country. By looking at the world as it is, President Trump sent a gale of fresh air into a becalmed foreign policy establishment on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

The first three “main findings” of the NATO document deal with the “changes to the geostrategic environment (including both Russia and China)” which have occurred since its 2010 Strategic Concept. Though the report paid lip service to “the dual-track approach of deterrence and dialogue with Russia” to placate those member states (like Germany) who shy away from confrontation, the report’s message is strong. “The Alliance must respond to Russian threats and hostile actions in a politically united, determined, and coherent way, without a return to ‘business as usual’” says its second findings, advising “NATO should evolve the content of its dual-track strategy to ensure its continued effectiveness by raising the costs for Russian aggression.” Continue reading

China Celebrates The Anniversary Of Its “Victory” In The Korean War

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2020

By William R. Hawkins

Korean War. Units of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers celebrating their joint defeat of an attack by US forces. 1953. (Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On October 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at a major gathering in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) entering the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1950. He claimed the purpose of military intervention was to help North Korea resist U.S. aggression. The speech is representative of the kind of propaganda Beijing creates to send messages to audiences both at home and abroad at a time of rising tensions across the Indo-Pacific.

Xi’s speech is not the only event staged to celebrate China’s role in the Korean War. Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of a new exhibit dedicated to the war on October 19. According to state media, Wang’s history ran as follows. On October 19, 1950, as requested by the DPRK, CPV forces crossed the Yalu River to aid the DPRK’s fight in the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea” (Beijing’s official name for the conflict). The war lasted until a truce was signed in 1953. A total of 2.9 million CPV soldiers entered the battlefield, and 197,653 died. New films and books are also being released pushing the theme that China was acting to defend Korea from an American invasion, motivated only by a desire to regain peace and stability. Continue reading