Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Japan voters seek change, may get chaos


Five years ago, Japanese voters seeking change from stale politics and a stagnant economy backed maverick leader Junichiro Koizumi’s calls for reform, handing his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a huge win in an election for parliament’s powerful lower house.

Two years, several scandals and one incompetent prime minister later, they dealt the same LDP a stinging setback in a 2007  upper house election, creating a “Twisted Parliament” where the upper chamber could stall bills and delay policies.

The gridlock toppled the LDP’s Shinzo Abe and his successor,  each after about a year in office, and finally last summer the same electorate — still longing for something new and better — swept the novice Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to power, ending more than half a century of almost non-stop LDP rule and ejecting  Taro Aso from the PM’s seat. The DPJ, voters hoped, would make good on promises to change how Japan was governed, ending bureaucratic control of policies, and somehow ensuring that Japan emerged from two decades of the doldrums.

JAPAN-ELECTION/Now, after less than a year  of chaotic policymaking,  indecisive leadership and more scandals under DPJ premier  Yukio Hatoyama, followed by sudden talk of a sales tax hike from former grassroots activist Naoto Kan, who took over when Hatoyama suddenly quit,  frustrated voters did it again.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Towards a settlement in Afghanistan; on terms and timing

afghan girlIn the highly charged debate about Afghanistan, one of the more common features is the straw man fallacy - in which you deliberately misrepresent your opponent's position in order to discredit it. One of the least common is a definition of terms and timing - thereby making the straw man attack even easier.  So before a round-up of where things stand on prospects for a settlement, here are some caveats on what it does not involve.

First, as Andrew Exum highlights here, few are talking about a helicopters-on-the-rooftops of Kabul-style, complete U.S. withdrawal come July 2011, the deadline fixed by President Barack Obama for starting to draw down U.S. troops. Second, few believe the war will end in an outright victory; but rather in a negotiated settlement, including with the Taliban.  Third, when people talk about negotiating,  they are not suggesting Taliban leaders are suddenly about to lay down arms and come to the table (it is just not the sort of thing you do when your names figure on the most-wanted list.) Beyond those caveats, what you do have is a set of questions about the likely influences that will define the timings and terms of a settlement.

Japan’s not-so-hot election


Candidates on the campaign trail in Japan are sweating through the summer heat but voters have been cool towards this Sunday’s upper house election.

Sure, the government won’t change because the ruling Democratic Party will still control the more powerful lower house.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s Zardari in China; nuclear deal in grasp

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the "all weather ally" every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.

Zardari  may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan's Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing  reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Kashmir protests: another tragedy of timing

morekashmirAnother three people have been killed in Kashmir in the biggest anti-India demonstrations in two years, bringing the death toll to at least 14 in the last three weeks. You can see some video of the protests in the Kashmiri capital Srinagar here - please watch it and remember that only a few years ago peace had returned to the streets of Srinagar after more than a decade of violence.

While Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has suggested the violence is being whipped up by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, our correspondent in Srinagar says that many local Kashmiris believe the protests are largely spontaneous.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

In scramble for Afghanistan, India looks to Iran

arghandab2Diplomats like to stress that Afghanistan is not a zero-sum game, that if only the many regional players -- including Pakistan and India - can settle their differences, they can find common cause in seeking a political settlement that will offer stability. That view comes complete with an appealing historical template - the British in India were able to extricate themselves from their failed Afghan wars in the 19th century in part because they agreed with Tsarist Russia that Afghanistan should be allowed to remain neutral.

Yet in the feverishness of the 21st century Afghan war, the perception (right or wrong) of a likely early American disengagement may be encouraging more, rather than less, zero-sum gamesmanship. The danger then is that far from moving towards a settlement for Afghanistan, regional players back different sides in the Afghan conflict, leading to de facto partition and renewed civil war.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan searches for a response to Lahore shrine bombing

sufi shrineNearly a week after suicide bombers attacked one of Pakistan's most popular shrines in Lahore, it remains unclear how the country should, and indeed will, respond to a fresh wave of attacks in its heartland Punjab province.

The government has announced plans to hold a national conference on ways to combat terrorism to try to limit the political bickering which erupted between the federal government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Punjab provincial government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif over who was to blame.

from Afghan Journal:

Nervous Afghan capital awaits “King David” Petraeus

Razor wire lies in front of Kabul's rocket-scarred Darulaman Palace. U.S. General David Petraeus arrived in Afghanistan on Friday to take command of American and NATO troops in the fight against the Taliban. Picture by author.

Razor wire lies in front of Kabul's rocket-scarred Darulaman Palace. U.S. General David Petraeus arrived in Afghanistan on Friday to take command of American and NATO troops in the fight against the Taliban. Picture by author.

As America's "warrior scholar" General David Petraeus jets into Kabul to take command of the war against the Taliban, Afghan soldiers at the city's ruined monument to past kings have little faith the growing insurgency can be turned, even in the capital.