By Karunyan Arulanantham, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Karunyan Arulanantham is the executive director of the Tamil American Peace Initiative, an organization of Tamil Americans. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Amid the jungle and sandy beaches of northeast Sri Lanka’s Vanni region lie tragic truths the government has desperately sought to suppress in the four years since its civil war with the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) came to a sudden and gory halt. On the Mullivaikal peninsula, between the Nanthikadal Lagoon and the sea just north of the town of Mullaithivu, the government declared a safe zone, where hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped as they sought refuge from the bloodshed.
What happened next is almost unimaginable. Seeking to crush the LTTE once and for all, the government proceeded to shell the No Fire Zone and surrounding areas after assuring the world that they would not use heavy weapons. The government declared victory over the LTTE in late May 2009, but in doing so, tens of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians were also killed by government forces.
By Adam Lowther, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Adam Lowther is a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC and author of Deterrence. The views expressed are his own.
Congress, at least in the eyes of its critics, may not seem able to get very much done these days. But a House of Representatives subcommittee got at least one thing right last week when it voted to block the Defense Department from closing domestic U.S. military bases and installations.
The vote comes against the backdrop of sequestration – the forced budget cuts in Washington – and suggestions from Department of Defense officials that a new round of base closures is necessary. But Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should not yield to the growing chorus calling for another round of realignment to follow the five previous rounds that took place between 1988 and 2005 and that saw the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps absorb 97 major base closures as part of the post-Cold War military drawdown. Yes, we should take a hard look at the budget numbers. But those pushing for closures are missing the true value of these bases.
This article was originally posted last month. It is being reposted today, World Water Day. For more What in the World, watch GPS on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
By Global Public Square staff
Imagine a large body of water – about the size of the Dead Sea – simply disappearing. It sounds like a science fiction movie. But it’s not. It’s happening in real life – and we've only just found out.
A pioneering study from NASA and the University of California Irvine shows how the Middle East is losing its fresh water reserves. As you can see from the satellite imagery in the video, we’re going from blues and greens, to yellows and reds: that’s 144 cubic kilometers of lost water between 2003 and 2009. What do we mean by “lost water”? Most of it comes from below the Earth’s surface, from water trapped in rocks. In times of drought, we tend to drill for water by constructing wells and pumps. But the Earth has a finite supply. NASA’s scientists say pumping for water is the equivalent of using up your bank savings. And that bank account is dwindling.
This could have serious implications. Conflicts over water are as old as the story of Noah – in 3,000 BC. The Pacific Institute lists 225 such conflicts through history. What’s fascinating is that nearly half of those conflicts took place in the last two decades. Are we going to see a new era of wars fought over water?
By Fareed Zakaria
The American public has lost interest in the Iraq war. A topic that was at the center of the national political debate is now barely mentioned in passing. The country has decided to move on, rather than debate whether the war was worth it - though for the vast majority of Americans, the answer to that question would be a decided, “no”.
Yet, it was the most significant military conflict that the United States has been in since the Vietnam War, and so it is worth asking – ten years after it began - what lessons might be learned from the war, aftermath, and occupation. Here is my list:
Bring enough troops. The Bush administration chose to go to war with Iraq in a manner that would make it relatively easy politically. It drew up plans for a small invading army and insisted that the costs would be minimal – silencing those within and without the Pentagon who suggested otherwise. In the first phase of the war, toppling Saddam’s army, the plan worked fine. But as the mission turned from invasion to occupation, the military’s “light footprint” proved to be a deadly problem. Iraq moved quickly towards chaos and civil war, under the eyes of American troops who could do little to prevent it. The lesson of the Balkans’ conflicts in the 1990s had been to have a much larger force, by some calculations four times larger than the United States had in Iraq. But that lesson was not learned in 2003. The next time, if it’s worth going to war, it’s worth staffing it properly.
For more What in the World, watch GPS on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
By Global Public Square staff
Senator Rand Paul decided to drone on last week about drones. He employed a rare talking filibuster to stall a confirmation vote for John Brennan as the CIA's director. All told, he went on for 12 hours and 52 minutes, including when he took questions from his Republican colleagues.
Washington also saw some tough questioning for Eric Holder. The attorney general was forced to admit it would unconstitutional to kill an American citizen with drone strikes on U.S. soil unless there was a Pearl Harbor-type imminent threat.
Usually, filibusters can be viewed as a bizarre, quasi-constitutional mechanism that is basically anti-democratic. But it's important to have a serious debate about drones, not just on the legality of whether they can be used to kill an American citizen, but a broader debate about them.
By Global Public Square
For more What in the World watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
If history is any guide, second terms are often disrupted by a foreign policy crisis. It's easy to see how that might happen over the next four years with Iran or Syria.
But, there is a distinct possibility that the next big foreign policy crisis will take place somewhere else, perhaps thousands of miles away, in Asian waters, over five islets and three barren rocks – all uninhabited except for a few feral goats.
For months now, Chinese and Japanese naval forces have been confronting each other in the East China Seas. Both countries claim a set of tiny islands. The Japanese call them the Senkaku Islands. The Chinese, the Diaoyus. The dispute involves energy – there are immense amounts of natural gas under the East China Seas – but above all it involves politics and history.
Barack Obama has won reelection as America’s president. But while the economy – and avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff – will inevitably take up much of his time, there are numerous foreign policy challenges facing the next administration. GPS asked 10 leading foreign policy analysts to name 10 things that Obama should focus on next. The views expressed are, of course, the authors' own.
Keep Arab Spring on track
By Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The biggest human rights challenge facing President Obama in his second term is finding ways to help keep on track the reform agenda that launched the Arab Spring. Most important is ending the horrible slaughter of civilians in Syria. Obama should stop pretending that Russia’s and China’s obstructionism absolves the U.S. of responsibility to continue ratcheting up pressure to stop the atrocities.
In Egypt, the regional trendsetter, Obama has properly said he respects the election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but now he should press the government, like all others, to respect basic rights, including of women and minorities. In Libya, Obama should stop treating the country as a “mission accomplished” and actively help elected authorities build the rule of law. And Obama should keep his promise to “promote reform across the region” and stop the discrediting double standard of making exceptions for U.S. allies, whether friendly monarchs or Israel.
By Urmila Venugopalan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia manager at Oceans Beyond Piracy. You can follow her on Twitter @Urmila_V and @OBPiracySAsia. The views expressed are her own.
Maritime piracy has long been considered the scourge of commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean. Recently, however, a combination of government- and private sector-led action has seen the number of pirate attacks in the region plunge to their lowest levels in almost five years.
This year’s statistics are unusually encouraging: the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in July that Somali piracy activity fell by almost 60 percent, down from 163 incidents in the first half of 2011 to just 69 in the same period of this year. Somali pirates also hijacked only 13 ships, down from 21, according to the IMB.
Robust cooperation among international navies has certainly played a key role in driving this trend. Regular naval patrols – led by NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, the EU’s Operation Atlanta, and Combined Task Force 151 – have undoubtedly disrupted several pirate attacks. China, India and Japan have also independently contributed to this effort – in a significant move at the start of this year, the three countries agreed to set aside their rivalries and coordinate their escort convoys in the Gulf of Aden.
By Douglas Paal, CEIP
Editor's note: Douglas H. Paal is director for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where this commentary originally appeared. The views expressed are his own.
The rhetoric is growing hotter among China, most of its Southeast Asian neighbors, and the United States. This month, the State Department took the unusual step of issuing a press statement that singled out Chinese behavior for criticism in creating a new administrative district covering most of the disputed islets in the South China Sea. Beijing’s media outlets have been responding with invective that’s stoking already high emotions among the Chinese public. The issue of managing tensions and territorial claims that are inherently difficult to resolve has become more difficult, not less.
It was not apparently intended in Washington for the situation to deteriorate in this fashion. In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against unilateral actions in the South China Sea and for the development of an effective code of conduct to govern rivals’ activities in the area. This was widely understood to be a needed shove in China’s direction to quit stalling on agreeing to the code of conduct and to restrain the aggressive actions of its fishermen and oil drillers. It was accompanied by American professions of disinterest in the specific territorial disputes, but insistence on freedom of navigation in the heavily trafficked waters and peaceful resolution of the disputes under international law.
Editor's Note: Christopher Alessi is an associate staff writer at the Council on Foreign Relations. Jendayi Frazer is an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Africa Studies at CFR. The following interview is reprinted from CFR.org with permission .
By Christopher Alessi and Jendayi Frazer, CFR.org
Tensions along the oil-rich border that divides Sudan and recently independent South Sudan have escalated in recent weeks, raising the prospect of a full-scale war between the longtime foes. China, which maintains considerable oil interests in both countries, has called for restraint (Reuters) and vowed to work with the United States to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.Jendayi Frazer, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, says while the role of mediation should remain with the African Union, the United States and China are vital players in this conflict that can bring pressure to bear on both parties.
However, Frazer says it is "a strategic mistake and it has never worked" for the international community to treat both sides equally, since the northern Sudan is clearly the aggressor in this latest conflict as well as many of those in the past. "The international community should be united against northern aggression," she says. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Omar R. Quraishi is the Editor of the Editorial Pages of The Express Tribune in Karachi. Follow him @omar_quraishi.
By Omar R. Quraishi, Foreign Affairs
If Pakistani news channels can be taken at face value these days, the country is preparing for war. Retired generals, ambassadors, and professors weigh in on the likelihood of U.S. attack with an unrelenting intensity. The anchor of "Capital Talk," one of the most widely watched news programs on the popular channel Geo, recently asked guests what Pakistan should do when the impending attack occurs. A couple of his guests said that Pakistan should mobilize its forces and respond with full force. Officials have been more circumspect, but have issued the constant refrain that Pakistan's sovereignty must not be compromised.
On Facebook, meanwhile, new groups rally Pakistanis to the defense of the homeland. Just a few hours before sitting down to write this article, I received a text message with a similar call to action from a professional acquaintance. The rambling screed read, "Let them taunt us as an economically failed state, for they know not how thousands of Pakistani workers are currently working in the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America... Let them call us a technologically backward state, for they know not how we are the sole Muslim state with nuclear capability."
Editor’s note: Blair Glencorse is an expert on governance and development. He was selected as member of the Transatlantic Network 2020 and as a UN Alliance of Civilizations Fellow for the Middle-East and North Africa. You can follow him on Twitter @blairglencorse.
By Blair Glencorse - Special to CNN
The fighting in Libya is coming to an end, but years of dictatorship, repression and brutal violence have left very deep social, economic and political divides within Libyan society. The extent of these problems is only just becoming clear as attention turns from war fighting to post-war reconstruction.
The West feels the urge to support a better future for the Libyan people as it should - both because it is in our interests and is the right thing to do - but if past experience is any guide, our efforts will hurt as much as help this process.