Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The US and the Great Game

President Obama's decision to cancel his Asia trip has generated a lot of commentary about how the US is losing Asia to China (if you don't believe me, just take a look at Real Clear World for the last few days).  My take is that the key problem in Washington is one of willingness to play the 'Great Game' rather than any lack of capabilities.  And it is not as if the US is not doing anything: they just concluded an expanded military treaty with Japan.  But Obama seems to think that this is all a bit silly and somewhat old fashioned.  Reminds me of all the nonsense that PM Nehru spouted about the balance of power until, of course, it snapped around and took a big bite in October 1962.  Not that not playing the game is winning Obama any friends: the Hindu (and others of that ilk) will continue to whine about US policy irrespective of what the US does precisely because it is the US.  My take on the issue was published in Economic Times yesterday (Oct. 8, 2013) and reproduced in full below.

Twin Summits: Bali minus Barack Obama is just right for China as US tend to lose

By Rajesh Rajagopalan

Doubts about US willingness to play the great game in Asia have been around for at least a decade. With Barack Obama, these doubts have been growing. His decision to cancel his Asia tour because of the US government shutdown means that he will miss two crucial summits: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit as well as the East Asia Summit. And it has let loose a storm of commentary about Washing-ton's loss and China's gain because Xi Jinping, China's new leader, has been talking partnership and winning friends even among traditional sceptics about China such as Indonesia.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kiriakakis on the importance of questions

An inspired Kostas Kiriakakis comic about the importance of questions . . . (and thanks to Madhumita Das for sending this to me).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rosa Brooks on "How to be a Foreign Policy Genius in 7 Minutes"

My students by now must be bored out of their minds by my constant refrain about professionals do's and don'ts, the stuff they need to do to be a good academic.  Many of these points are basic common sense, but often forgotten or ignored.  I just saw that Rosa Brooks has a nice essay on the Foreign Policy blog on "How to be a Foreign Policy Genius in 7 Minutes", which makes many of these points.  I don't know about 7 minutes; I think she meant more 7 steps.  Nevertheless, good advice for anyone wanting to be an IR scholar.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The 'Thank You and Farewell' Summit

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's US visit has been quite eventful, and not just in foreign policy terms, what with the Crown Prince on another of his occasional and typically disastrous forays into the family business.

But beyond the comedy . . .

In addition to his summit meeting with President Obama, the PM also tried yet again to make peace with Pakistan. This effort was accompanied by the usual outrage New Delhi television studios, though no one who opposed the meeting could say what was to be gained by not talking to Pakistan.  My point was always that India should talk to Pakistan but that it should also be prepared to use force to retaliate punitively whenever the Pakistan army decided to use force against India either directly or thorough its terrorist proxies (I had posted an earlier Economic Times essay here).

As regards the Singh-Obama summit meeting, it was clear that there wasn't much of an agenda to begin with and that there was not much escape from what Raja Mohan has characterized as India's 'irresoluteness" on the world stage.  Dan Twining, over at Shadow Government, noted that "it may take new political leadership in both (capitals) to move the relationship to the next level." My own take was published in Economic Times and is posted below.  [One note: ET edited out a couple of crucial sentences in my essay which I have included below in square brackets and italics]

Recent Manmohan-Obama summit a 'thank you' and 'farewell' Affair

(Economic Times, October 2, 2013)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington was not expected to yield anything dramatic. As the PM himself put it, "overall" he was there to thank US President Barack Obama "for all that he has done to strengthen, widen and deepen" US-India relations. Indian officials also made it clear that this was primarily a "review" summit, underlining that they had no significant agenda or expectations.