The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Why the world shouldn’t write off the Iraqi Army just yet

Shi'ite volunteers, from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, parade down a street in Kerbala

On Sept. 10, President Barack Obama outlined an overall strategy for countering the al Qaeda’ist movement that grandiosely calls itself the Islamic State. The president vowed to defeat and ultimately destroy it.

How is that campaign going? What are its prospects for success over the next few months to several years? Is it promising in both Iraq and Syria? My answer is a guarded yes, especially for Iraq (the Syria strategy is incomplete and will take longer to develop).

Why?

The Iraqi Army chose not to fight this spring more than it was defeated by ISIL. With proper reconstitution, which will require assistance from the United States, it can get its verve and capability back and go on the offensive.

Before explaining how, it’s important to recognize two pieces of good news. First, U.S. airpower successfully helped defend Iraqi Kurdistan against ISIL’S attacks this summer. Second, the Obama administration strongly encouraged formation of a new government in Baghdad under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The divisive Shi’ite chauvinist, Nouri al-Maliki, was pushed out.

from The Great Debate:

Being the ‘indispensable nation’ is killing American democracy

U.S. military personnel take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama as he speaks during visit to Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad

America -- proudly dubbed the “indispensable nation” by its national-security managers -- is now the entangled nation enmeshed in conflicts across the globe.

President Barack Obama, scorned by his Republican critics as an “isolationist” who wants to “withdraw from the world,” is waging the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan, boasts of toppling the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya, launches airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State and picks targets for drones to attack in as many as eight countries, while dispatching planes to the Russian border in reaction to its machinations in Ukraine, and a fleet to the South China Sea as the conflict over control of islands and waters escalates between China and its neighbors.

from The Great Debate:

Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion

Militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

It is easy to look to religion for an explanation of why young men -- and some women -- become radicalized. But it is psychology, not theology, that offers the best tools for understanding radicalization -- and how best to undo it.

The appeal of Islamic State rests on individuals’ quest for what psychologists call “personal significance,” which the militant group’s extremist propaganda cleverly exploits. The quest for significance is the desire to matter, to be respected, to be somebody in one's own eyes and in the eyes of others.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Why markets ignore good news from U.S. to focus on bad news from Europe

A trader watches the screen at his terminal on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York

What’s spooking the markets?

One thing we can say for sure is that it is not the slightly weaker-than-expected retail sales that triggered the mayhem on Wall Street on Wednesday morning. Most U.S. economic data have actually been quite strong in the month since Wall Street peaked on Sept. 19.

So to find an economic rationale for the biggest stock-market decline since 2011, we have to consider two other explanations.

from The Great Debate:

‘In Putin’s mind, Ukraine is not a nation’

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How dangerous is Vladimir Putin?

Reuters Editor-at-Large Sir Harold Evans moderated a panel of experts searching for answers to that question at a Newsmaker event hosted at the company's Times Square offices in New York on Oct. 14. The panel was comprised of New Yorker Editor David Remnick, author of the award winning Lenin's Tomb, former chess champion and Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov, Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen and Roger Altman, who served in the Treasury Department under presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and is currently chairman of investment advisory firm Evercore.

The conversation ranged over topics including Putin's personal psychology, what threat Russia now poses to the world economy, and whether his regime might be toppled from within.

from The Great Debate:

Under assault by U.S.-led coalition, Islamic State may shift tactics

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province

This summer, Islamic State fighters swept into the expanse of desert straddling the Iraq-Syria border. Riding in pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, supported by skilled snipers and at least one tank, the Islamists captured the town of Rabia on the Syrian side of the border.

Kurdish militia fighters from the People's Protection Units -- known by its Kurdish acronym YGP -- rushed to the neighboring town of Al Yarubiyah, on the Iraqi side, in a desperate effort to contain the militants' advance. What followed was a two-month stalemate, as both sides harassed each other with machine guns, mortars and snipers.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

An ‘atomic bomb’ is hovering over France’s economy

France's President Hollande and German Chancellor Merkel talk during a conference on jobs in Milan

An “atomic bomb” is about to blow up in “the confrontation between Paris and Brussels.”

It was in these terms that Le Figaro, perhaps the most influential French newspaper, reported the European Commission’s near-certain rejection of President Francois Hollande’s 2015 budget on Oct. 29.  That is the date the commission must issue a judgment on the French budget, which proposes a two-year delay in reducing the  budget deficit to the EU-mandated maximum of 3 percent of gross domestic product.

from The Great Debate:

Far from Hong Kong, ethnic minority regions in China are a tinderbox of tension

A young Tibetan monk is seen in the smoke as monks burn trees during their morning ritual in the Dzamthang Jonang monastery in Barma township

As the Hong Kong demonstrations continue, foreign observers question whether the democracy movement might embolden minority groups seeking greater autonomy in Tibet or Xinjiang, also known as East Turkistan. Like Hong Kong, these regions were once promised greater autonomy, but have yet to see it fully realized.

Before the Chinese Communist Party actually ruled the country, the 1931 Chinese Soviet Republic Constitution recognized "the right of national self-determination of ethnic minorities within the borders of China," as well as their right to secession. Mao Zedong backtracked on this position by the time the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949. The Chinese annexed ethnic minority regions and said they would grant Tibetans and Uighurs autonomy. However, critics argue that Beijing has failed to adhere to the rule of law by denying ethno-religious minorities the rights and freedoms originally promised.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Will the European economy’s summer squalls turn into an autumn tempest?

Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) answers reporter's questions during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt

Following the grim market response to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s latest monetary policy pronouncements, Europe is approaching another make-or-break moment comparable to the crisis of 2012. The summer quarter ended this week, and financial markets delivered their judgment on just how bad things are, pushing the euro down to its lowest level since September 2012. Europe’s quarterly stock market performance was the worst since the nadir of the euro crisis. The question is whether the miserable summer will give way to a milder autumn. Or whether the summer squalls will turn into a catastrophic tempest.

Given the absence of any decisive action at this week’s European Central Bank meeting, the answer will depend on three events in the month ahead: the Ukrainian elections on Oct. 26; the bank stress tests due to be finalized in late October by the central bank, and the judgment on French and Italian budget plans due to be delivered in outline by Europe’s political leaders at the Milan “growth summit” on Oct. 8 and then in detail by the European Commission at the end of the month.

from Hugo Dixon:

Whatever help the West offers to fight Islamic State, it should have conditions.

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

What should the West’s military policy be toward Islamic State?

Most observers fall into two camps. Some point to the sorry history of Western intervention in the Middle East and argue the job of combating the Islamic State should be left to local powers.

Others say the West, led by the United States, should be more active in fighting the insurgents. Only the West has the firepower to defeat the group, the argument goes, and it has a responsibility to fix what it has broken as well as a strategic interest in stopping the Islamic State militants from becoming more powerful and dangerous.

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