It would be self-deluding to try to rate our success in Afghanistan based on money spent, personnel sent, or how many experts we deployed to guide the Afghans to a modernized system of governance; such figures are meaningless if the values underlying the imposed political structures fail to take hold, as retired U.S. Army Major William S. McCallister points out in “Metrics: Impossible.” We need to be realistic, he notes, about the results we can expect in the face of entrenched kinship-based power brokerage there.
Even more significant to U.S. security interests, argues Professor Timothy Hoyt of the U.S. Naval War College, is Pakistan, a nuclear power, host to terrorists, and enemy of India. Though Pakistan is a nominal ally in the war on terrorism, the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad once again has strained its ever-contentious relations with the United States. But Dr. Hoyt sees the incident as an opportunity for a re-evaluation of U.S. strategy in the region as we try to manage this difficult alliance, one he describes as our most challenging since that with the Soviet Union during World War II.
From the moment China purchased the unfinished Russian carrier Varyag in 1998, Sino-watchers have breathlessly speculated on what role it might play in the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Some thought China acquired the ship merely for research purposes, as a guide to building its own carriers. Or was it the first in a fleet of Chinese flattops? At one point there was even a bizarre proposal to turn it into a floating casino. Docked at Dalian shipyard for nearly a decade, it now appears the carrier is close to becoming operational, with sea trials possibly taking place later this year. This would appear to validate the concerns of those who view China as a peer competitor in the Pacific and consider a future conflict almost inevitable.
But hold on, says Lieutenant Commander Matthew Harper: Those gloomy prognosticators haven’t factored in the most important aspect—the economy. Going against the grain of those who have written for this and other professional journals, he points out that while China’s ramped-up military capabilities—particularly its naval buildup—are legitimate cause for concern, we may have lost some perspective on international economic ties when pondering any potential increase in U.S.-Chinese tension. His article, “Chinese Missiles and the Walmart Factor,” restores those economic realities to the debate. The author provides an intriguing counterpoint to the usual fare on China, and we’re pleased to have him lead off this month. Keep those contrarian fires burning, Lieutenant Commander Harper!