Focal Points Blog

Never Mind China, Time to Pivot to India

It’s tough to imagine how increasing its population will benefit India. (Photo: LiveMint)

It’s tough to imagine how increasing its population will benefit India. (Photo: LiveMint)

In just seven years, India is expected to surpass China in population. At the National Interest, Gordon Chang writes:

No country will contribute more to global population growth between now and 2050. And the Indian state will continue to grow well into the second half of the century. India, according to the UN, will peak in 2068, when it will be home to 1.75 billion souls. That year, China is projected to have 541 million fewer people.

China will also be behind where it counts, workers. India’s workforce—people aged 15 to 59—will overtake China’s within a decade. By mid-century, there will be 1.05 billion Indians of working age, 375 million more than the Chinese in the same age group.

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Poland and Solidarity: the Disappointment of a Dream Fulfilled

Many citizens of Poland  dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall, but the reality couldn’t meet their expectations. Pictured: one-time Solidarity activist Jan Litynski. (Photo: John Feffer)

Many citizens of Poland dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall, but the reality couldn’t meet their expectations. Pictured: one-time Solidarity activist Jan Litynski. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

“May your dreams come true” is purportedly an ancient Chinese curse. Although it is probably apocryphal – just as the Chinese never say “may you live in interesting times” — the phrase does contain an element of truth. It is often the longing and anticipation that we crave, not the realization of our hopes. Nothing can possibly compare to the fulfillment we imagine.

Many Poles dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall. But even after the semi-free elections of June 4, 1989, in which Solidarity-affiliated candidates won nearly all the contested seats, few anticipated that their dreams would come true so quickly.
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U.S. Using Iran Inspections to Tweak Targeting in Event of “Military Option”

In an act of blatant bad faith, the United States used IAEA inspections of Iran to improve its targeting capability should it ever decide to attack Iran. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

In an act of blatant bad faith, the United States used IAEA inspections of Iran to improve its targeting capability should it ever decide to attack Iran. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

On July 17, perhaps unintentionally, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest revealed America’s dirty secret about the JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The military option would remain on the table, but the fact is, that military option would be enhanced because we’d been spending the intervening number of years gathering significantly more detail about Iran’s nuclear program. So when it comes to the targeting decisions that would be made by military officials either in Israel or the United States, those targeting decisions would be significantly informed, and our capabilities improved, based on the knowledge that has been gained in the intervening years through this inspections regime.

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Saudi Arabia Adds Insult to Injury in Yemen

Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Pictured: Old Sanaa. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr Commons)

Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Pictured: Old Sanaa. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr Commons)

No American (okay, Canadian) journalist is doing more important — not to mention intrepid — reporting from the Middle East than Matthieu Adkins. For his latest piece for Rolling Stone, Yemen’s Hidden War, he ventured into Yemen and observed the effects of the U.S.-abetted Saudi offensive against the Houthis — and thus everybody else — in Yemen. The Houthis seized power from Abdu Hadi, the successor to long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced out by mass demonstrations. Apparently their main sin to the Saudis is that they’re a denomination of Shi’ite and may be supported by Iran, about whom the Saudis are touchy these days to the point of paranoia.
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Afghanistan: the Forever War

The infusion of U.S. “baksheesh” has damaged the fabric of Afghan society. Pictured: Naray, Afghanistan. (Photo: Ricymar Photography / Flickr Commons)

The infusion of U.S. “baksheesh” has damaged the fabric of Afghan society. Pictured: Naray, Afghanistan. (Photo: Ricymar Photography / Flickr Commons)

The July 30 ruling by a federal judge that the U.S. may continue holding as a prisoner of war an inmate of Guantanamo who was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, was a reminder that America is still  at war in that country. The prisoner claimed that since the U.S. formally ended its combat role in Afghanistan in 2014, he had a right to be released. But according to Judge Royce C. Lambeth, the war in Afghanistan is not yet over. He wrote in his decision, “The government may not always say what it means or means what it says.” One of the defendant’s lawyers said the judge’s ruling endorsed “the idea of a limitless forever war under which the government can continue fighting.” But fighting for what? The murderous attack on the World Trade Towers in September 2001 was masterminded, financed, and carried out by a group of Saudis. Yet without attempting to understand the motivation behind the suicidal attack, or to identify the policies that provoked it, George W. Bush declared a “war on terror” and ordered the invasion of Afghanistan.
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Regional Powers Seek to Use War Against Islamic State to Defeat Their Traditional Enemies

The inability of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel to take the Islamic State seriously as a threat may come back to haunt them. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

The inability of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel to take the Islamic State seriously as a threat may come back to haunt them. Pictured: De facto Islamic State capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Despite how the Islamic State continues to seek to extend its territory and commit atrocities, the three main regional powers still can’t seem to keep their eyes on the ball. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel continue to prioritize other perceived threats instead. At the Atlantic, in a satirical article titled Defeating ISIS: The Board Game, Karl Sharro writes:

Saudi Arabia … believes ISIS cannot be defeated unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. Turkey has just convinced NATO nations that the war against ISIS can only be won if Turkey’s traditional Kurdish opponents are neutralized first. Israel sees only one way to defeat ISIS: destroy Iran’s nuclear program and clip its wings regionally.

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Anti-semitism in Poland Preceded and Succeeded World War II

Pictured: Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. (Photo: Sebastian Deptula / Flickr Commons)

Pictured: Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. (Photo: Sebastian Deptula / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

In the Middle Ages, when Jews in Europe experienced a wave of persecutions connected to their imagined complicity in the Black Death, King Kazimierz welcomed the persecuted to Poland. It was a golden age of tolerance in the country. Rumor has it that the king even had a Jewish mistress.

I learned all this when I visited the town of Kazimierz Dolny in 1989 with Rachel Zacharia, a Jewish psychologist I’d met in Warsaw. She wanted to show me the traces of Jewish life in the area of Poland known as Galicia: what had existed before the Holocaust destroyed the once-vibrant community. There was the old synagogue, which had been turned into a movie theater. There were the buildings on the narrow streets that had once sported the signs of Jewish shops. The ruins of Kazimierz’s castle stood on a hill overlooking the town.
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Is It Time for South Sudan and Sudan to Re-unite?

South Sudan is a textbook case of a failed state. Pictured: the village of Yei. (Photo: Creedence67 / Flickr Commons)

South Sudan is a textbook case of a failed state. Pictured: the village of Yei. (Photo: Creedence67 / Flickr Commons)

Four years have passed since South Sudan seceded from Sudan, and the only thing it has earned so far is violence and internal crisis that seems to have no end in sight. The international community has stood by South Sudan’s side, but the new country has repeatedly let everyone down.

The ongoing violence and civil war in South Sudan has killed and displaced millions of innocent civilians. This young country, carved forcibly out of Africa’s largest nation (erstwhile undivided Sudan), is a living example of a failed state.
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Islamic Manuscript Radiocarbon Dated to Time of Muhammad

An illuminated manuscript of the Koran. (Photo: Walters Art Museum / Flickr Commons)

An illuminated manuscript of the Koran. (Photo: Walters Art Museum / Flickr Commons)

Irregularities were recently discovered in a manuscript found in Iraq in the 1920s and currently residing in the University of Birmingham (UK) library. Subsequent radiocarbon dating has revealed that the manuscript may be 1,370 years old. The implications are startling. In the New York Times, Dan Bilefsky explains.

… the fragments appeared to be part of what could be the world’s oldest copy of the Quran, and researchers say it may have been transcribed by a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad.

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Fine-Tuning Nuclear Weapons to Make Them More Palatable

The yield (explosive power) of the B-61-12 nuclear weapon can be adjusted. (Photo: Visokio.com)

The yield (explosive power) of the B-61-12 nuclear weapon can be adjusted. (Photo: Visokio.com)

The comparatively low yield of the modernized (for all intents and purposes, new) B-61-12 nuclear weapon, combined with its precision guidance system make it tempting to take off the shelf as a deterrent and actually use it like a conventional weapon. At National Interest, Zachary Keck writes:

… the bomb has a maximum yield of 50 kilotons. However, this yield can be lowered as needed for any particular mission. In fact, the bomb’s explosive force can be reduced electronically through a dial-a-yield system.

This combination of accuracy and low-yield make the B61-12 the most usable nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal. That’s because accuracy is the most important determinate of a nuclear weapon’s lethality … the more accurate the bomb, the lower the yield that is needed to destroy any specific target. A lower-yield and more accurate bomb can therefore be used without having to fear the mass, indiscriminate killing of civilians through explosive force or radioactive fallout.

… a U.S. counterforce strike against China’s ICBM silos using high-yield weapons [would] kill anywhere between 3-4 million people. Using low-yield weapons and airbursts, this figure drops to as little as 700 fatalities!

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