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from The Great Debate:

China’s air defense zone: The shape of things to come?

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China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone (AIDZ) that covers substantial portions of the East China Sea has unleashed a storm of concern among China’s neighbors -- as well as in the United States.

For China’s action reflects the deeper challenge now posed by its growing military capability and international activism. Vice President Joe Biden was on solid ground when he objected strenuously to this new air defense zone during his recent trip to the region.

Washington and Beijing each insists it wants to build a “new kind of major power relationship.” If they are to succeed, however, and enhance peace and stability across the region, they must develop new strategies to manage their growing tensions.

China defended its new defense zone by asserting that its actions are consistent with international law. Beijing’s arguments are unconvincing, however, because they don’t address the reasons why this particular air defense zone is so troubling.

from The Great Debate:

Drone coalition: Key to U.S. security

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The Pentagon’s biggest, most high-tech spy drone aircraft — one of the hottest items on the international arms market — is the key to a burgeoning robotic alliance among the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk, a $215 million, airliner-size Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) built by Northrop Grumman, could help this four-nation coalition monitor both China, as it increasingly flexes its military muscles, and North Korea, as it develops ever more sophisticated nuclear weapons.

from The Great Debate:

Weighing U.S.intervention: Syria v. Congo

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President Barack Obama, in a January New Republic interview, was asked bluntly if the United States should actively intervene in Syria's civil war. He thoughtfully explained his reservations. Several concerned Syria, but the last one pointed to larger ethical issues. “And how do I weigh,” Obama asked, “tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?"

With this comment, Obama cut to the heart of an age-old dilemma about humanitarian military intervention -- whether it is worth addressing some conflicts when you know that others continue to simmer, or boil over, at the same time?

from Thinking Global:

Obama’s Afghan test

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Munich – For America’s friends and allies, who will welcome Vice President Joe Biden to the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend, President Obama’s second inaugural address was notable for its single-minded focus on U.S. domestic issues even as global challenges proliferate. It was the clearest sign yet that Obama intends to build his historic legacy at home.

No one quibbles with Obama’s conviction that America’s global role can best be sustained through a period of “nation-building at home.” The problem is the world is unlikely to hit the pause button as America gets itself off the fiscal cliff, reforms its immigration system, modernizes its infrastructure, fixes its education system and focuses on other long-neglected home chores.

from The Great Debate:

New Afghan war over U.S. troop levels

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The stubborn war in Afghanistan, which has spanned a decade and cost more than 2,000 American lives, has now faded to one key question: How many U.S. troops will remain after 2014?

This is the issue that will likely occupy President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai when they meet at the White House on Friday. Officials are already batting numbers about, ranging from zero to 20,000.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Tea Party poopers

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A man holds a sign during a March 24 Tea Party Patriots rally in Washington calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthare law. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

All that Tea Party support in 2010 for the 87 House Republican freshmen seems to have come with a price -- and now it's time to collect.

from Afghan Journal:

US military surge: the view from Kandahar

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The U.S. military has stopped the Taliban momentum in southern Afghanistan, and is probably starting to reverse it following the surge, according to a study we wrote about this week here. The view from the ground, though, is much less rosy.

Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy has published a paper under its Afghan Voices series looking at how ordinary Afghans view the current round of military operations centred around Kandahar.

from Tales from the Trail:

McCain sees India, U.S. teaming up against “troubling” China

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SUMMIT-WASHINGTON

As President Barack Obama begins his visit to India, his erstwhile rival John McCain is voicing hope that Washington and New Delhi will tighten up their military cooperation in the face of China's "troubling" assertiveness.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a think-tank audience in Washington on Friday that the two huge democracies were natural allies in the quest to temper China's ambitions.

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan’s $2 bln gravy train

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File picture of fuel tanker that exploded following an attack in Jalalabad)

File picture of fuel tanker that exploded following an attack in Jalalabad)

The United States cannot win a fight for hearts and minds if it outsources critical missions to unaccountable contractors, U.S. President Barack Obama said during a speech he made as a senator back in 2007.  It hasn't changed much in Afghanistan since then as a U.S. Congressional investigation into a $2.16 billion supply chain that provides  soldiers everything from muffins to mine-resistant vehicles shows.

Security for the supply chain running through remote and hostile terrain has been outsourced to contractors, "an arrangement that has fuelled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of  warlords, strongmen, commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others," according to John F.Tierney, chairman of the
subcommittee on National Security And Foreign Affairs.

from Afghan Journal:

The changing face of war in Afghanistan

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AFGHANISTAN

I was embedded with Western troops a few days ago. Beforehand I was warned of austere living conditions at the combat outpost. I thought about the agony -- since I suffer from technophobia -- of filing stories through a satellite phone in the scorching heat.

As I rolled out my sleeping bag I noticed all the soldiers had mosquito nets over theirs. Actually, they were there to keep camel spiders and scorpions away. It was remote as can be. Grape fields, mountains and villages with mud brick huts with, probably, no electricity.

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