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Geopoliticus: The FPRI Blog

Geopoliticus
October 10, 2019

Building from Scratch: Rebirth of the Philippine Navy

In many respects, the navy that the Philippines is now building is a new one. By the 1990s, its old navy had fallen into such a state of obsolescence that it had no ships capable of fighting a modern naval battle. Indeed, with the exception of a single World War II-era destroyer escort, the navy had no vessel bigger than a 62-meter offshore patrol boat. But in the coming years, the Philippine navy will for the first time acquire the full spectrum of contemporary anti-air, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare capabilities that it has lacked for so long. Still, it remains to be seen if the Philippine navy will acquire those capabilities in sufficient quantity or quality to present a “credible deterrent” against the Philippines’ various challengers in the South China Sea.

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Source: War on the Rocks
Geopoliticus
September 26, 2019

Brexit: An Evolving Tale

Epic saga or black comedy, Brexit is a moving tale with an unchanging cast, and a central paradox: states are located in a world of continual interaction across their borders, but the international system rests on nations with borders and a sense of identity. An emphasis on the latter point can be dismissed as ‘populism,’ the new term for democracy, or can be supported, but the key point is that Britain and Europe more broadly are facing a significant collision between populism/democracy and transnational cooperation. This is not simply a matter of right-wing disaffection, but is a matter of more profound failure of transnational institutions such as the EU to deliver on their promises and to engage with public concerns. The Brexit referendum was not the first mark of this failure. Referenda in Continental Europe in the 2000s has already revealed this, as, separately, had the two referenda over whether Norway should join.

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Geopoliticus
September 26, 2019

When Pain is Thicker Than Blood: Surviving Scourge and Purifying the Ranks

Motivated by his fear of automation and limited opportunities, as well as by a shortage of resources that he reasoned would be exacerbated by climate change and immigration, Patrick Crusius carried out a terrorist attack to advance his racist population control mission, targeting Latinx individuals and killing 22 Walmart shoppers in El Paso, Texas. Michael Todd Wolfe, who was sentenced to nearly 7 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, was ready to “hop into Syria [and was] ready to die” for his “righteous brothers” there. A few minutes before committing a vehicular attack in Toronto that killed 10, Alek Minassian declared the “Incel Rebellion” and praised Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 killed six people at U.C. Santa Barbara before ultimately killing himself.

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Geopoliticus
September 25, 2019

Roundtable: Another Election in Israel

On September 17, 2019, Israelis went to the polls to vote in the second national election in the last 5 months. The narrative, at least leading up to the recent vote, was that the election was a redo of the April vote when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats, but could not form a government. The election has led to deadlock, as Israeli parties position to negotiate about the future political leadership of the country. To discuss the recent election in Israel and the negotiations that have followed, the Foreign Policy Research Institute convened an online discussion, led by Dr. Aaron Stein, along with Dr. Michael Koplow, policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, and Ms. Yael Mizrahi-Arnaud a special assistant at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Geopoliticus
September 24, 2019

Think Global, Fund Local

After Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi drove Uber out of China in 2016, it threw support behind companies trying to do the same thing in other countries. Now, a global anti-Uber alliance of scrappy startups is leveraging Chinese money and expertise to thwart competition, while China’s influence has steadily grown in a range of markets. This Chinese strategy of backing “insurgent” artificial intelligence (AI) startups is a minor, but important, insight of Kai-Fu Lee’s 2018 book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. Lee calls the strategy localization, and predicts that it will reshape geopolitics in the AI era. It’s a compelling tactic to explore as U.S.-China competition draws increasing attention.

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Geopoliticus
September 19, 2019

The Terrorist Threat Posed by Neglect and Indifference

Months after the collapse of its territorial caliphate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) remains a viable threat to the United States and the international community writ large. The organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is alive and on the lam, while in the group’s former strongholds, it is reconstituting its networks and waging a low-level campaign of political assassinations, ambushes, and guerrilla warfare-style attacks. ISIS will be able to continue making money, even without a stranglehold on territory, and still has access to hundreds of millions of dollars that will aid its efforts to rebuild.

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(Source: Rahbar Emamdadi/Mehrnews)
Geopoliticus
September 12, 2019

Why Iran Should—But Might Not—Take Up Latest U.S. Offer of Negotiations

The recent firing or resignation of President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton has heightened speculation that Trump will meet with his Iranian counterpart President Hassan Rouhani on the margins of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session beginning next week. Bolton is renowned for his hawkish views on Iran—long advocating for forceful U.S. military action against Iran and pushing regime change as the “only long term solution” to the threats posed by Iran.

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Geopoliticus
September 11, 2019

Focus on the Big Picture: Washington’s Options in Syria

Even after eight years of civil war and the U.S. intervention to combat the Islamic State (IS), the future of northeast Syria still is unsettled. Washington faces the various divergent interests of powerful external actors, including Russia and Turkey—one a great power competitor and the other a NATO ally—in the country. To complicate matters further, the United States has sought to shift the goals of its presence in Syria from a narrow, counter-terrorism effort to defeat IS to denying the Bashar al-Assad regime a victory, with the intent of forcing Assad to make political concessions and making Syria a focal point of the so-called “Maximum Pressure” strategy aimed at using economic coercion to change Iranian foreign policy. Amidst the expansion of Washington’s desired political outcomes in Syria, President Donald Trump ordered the military to withdraw forces in December 2018, only to reverse course, so long as the United States worked to increase the European commitment to the ground war in Northeast Syria.

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Geopoliticus
September 5, 2019

Roundtable: The Iranian Way of War

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been at war for almost its entire existence, beginning with the Iraqi invasion of the country in 1980 and, then, in an asymmetric way in support of regional clients, often working against American allies and partners in the Middle East. As Ariane Tabatabai wrote recently for Foreign Affairs, the Islamic Republic’s operations in Syria is the first, large-scale and acknowledged operation in a foreign country since the country’s founding. After eight years of conflict in Syria, Iran is most certainly trying to incorporate lessons-learned about its experience in the conflict to help shape planning for the future. To discuss what the Iranians may be thinking, the Foreign Policy Research Institute convened an online discussion, led by Dr. Aaron Stein, along with Dr. Ariane Tabatabai, a political scientist at RAND, and Dr. Afshon Ostovar, a Senior Fellow at FPRI and professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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(Source: Studio Incendo/Flickr)
Geopoliticus
August 21, 2019

Endangered Golden Goose: Hong Kong’s Economic Value to China

With anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong showing few signs of abating, speculation is growing as to what China might do next. Already, China’s Hong Kong Affairs Office head warned, “If the situation worsens further, and there is turmoil that the Hong Kong government is unable to control, the central government absolutely will not just watch without doing anything.” To that end, Beijing has assembled thousands of paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP), China’s internal security force, just outside Hong Kong’s border. Were they to enter the city to quell the unrest, it would likely be a bloody affair. Largely unarmed, the demonstrators will likely get the short end of the stick.

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