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Weekend catch-up: Syrian refugees and airstrikes, Thailand's constitution, China's economy, ISIS online and more

Weekend catch-up: Syrian refugees and airstrikes, Thailand's constitution, China's economy, ISIS online and more
Published 12 Sep 2015   Follow @BrendanTN_

This week the Australian Government announced it would take in an additional 12,000 refugees stemming from the Syrian civil war and that it would also extend airstrikes into the country. Rodger Shanahan said that the airstrikes represent an extension of a mission without a clear strategy:

Practically speaking, the small number of assets we have deployed means that the ADF will have a pretty limited operational effect on the ground. Of more importance though is the fact that, regardless of how limited our support is, or whether we justify it purely in terms of Iraq, we have now bought into the Syrian problem. It is not a problem that you want to buy onto without a clear understanding of the strategic aim you intend to achieve. And on the face of the announcements today, there's little evidence that we have this.

However, Jim Molan argued if the airstrikes make the US take the conflict in Syria more seriously, then they should be done:

I have accused Australia in the past of making contributions to recent wars, but not really committing to the wars themselves. That is, taking responsibility for winning. I am less critical of this deployment by Australia, but it's not altogether blameless. There is more that the coalition should be doing, more that Australia could do, that will increase the probability of success. We do not have unlimited time to be successful, and we desperately need the US to lead. Polls show that the American people are willing to put more forces into Iraq against ISIS. President Obama now needs to catch up with his people and his allies. 

Daniel Woker had a two-part series on the refugee crisis and the EU:

There is no short-term solution to the European immigrant conundrum. However, there must be more efficient and less shameful ways of managing this influx than the present chaos with its horrifying toll of suffocated refugee families on Libyan boats and Austrian highways. Only by addressing conditions in the countries and regions of refugees' origin, implementing harsh sanctions against human traffickers, and coordinating the reception and distribution of refugees and migrants, will there be any chance of success.

In part 2, Woker laid out the three policy areas that the European Commission needs to focus on in order to address the crisis: [fold]

Such criminal activity, protected by internationally-recognised governments as well as heavily armed and well-connected war lords, can only be interrupted by a mix of international sanctions and targeted military action. As yet, the EU has developed neither the required political will, nor the necessary military means. However, the need for action on this front has dramatically increased over the last weeks, and in typical EU fashion, European Governments might again surprise everybody, including themselves, with a more muscular response.

Anneliese McAuliffe on Thailand's constitutional failure:

There is no doubt that there are strong reasons to reject the proposals set out in the draft document. Analysts agreed that it was a draconian piece of drafting. But there was one article, added at the last minute, that provoked the most controversy and perhaps marked the whole document for failure. This most controversial of the 285 articles was the creation of a 23-member committee, including senior members of the military and police, to take control during times of 'conflict that leads to violence.' Its authority would have lasted for five years, with the possibility of extension via a referendum.

Nearly all political parties were opposed to this clause, saying it amounted to the ability to stage a legal coup. But their criticisms went far deeper than this one article. 

Is this what an economic transition in China is supposed to look like? John Edwards thinks the evidence stacks-up:

The evidence of the transition accumulates, and it looks similar to the evidence for a general slowdown in China. Indeed it is identical, because slowing output growth is also part of the transition. Exports have slowed, for example. Steel production growth has slowed to zero, at least in the most recent reports, and most indicators of residential construction – prices, floor space sold – are very much weaker than they were a few years back. The current account surplus has dramatically narrowed (though now widening a little). Savings has fallen as a share of GDP, as has investment.

It's complicated because while China is making a transition from exports and investment to consumption and services, it has also been making a transition away from an unsustainable boom in infrastructure and home building. Both were boosted in the aftermath of the GFC seven years ago, both were stimulated by expanded lending, and both are now running at much lower levels than they were five years ago. Credit growth is well down, as intended. 

South Korean President Park was one of the very few democratically-elected leaders to attend China's World War II anniversary parade last week. But Robert E Kelly said that it's for a good reason:

Despite reasonable fears of the validation of Chinese power and expansionism, Park still made the right decision to go, because she needs China to rein in North Korea. Severing that client-patron relationship is the real story behind almost everything Park does with China – all the trips (six in three years), wooing, schmoozing, silence on Chinese bad behavior in the South China Sea, and so on. Is this unfortunate? Yes. But it serves a greater, and moral, purpose.

Catriona Croft-Cusworth wrote an interesting piece on the relationship between Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart:

As a furniture businessman who excelled in local politics before becoming president, Jokowi needs a foreign minister who will bring his attention to big picture international matters. Instead, Retno has so far taken on the role in the manner of a career diplomat, by getting on with the job but without bringing any great vision to the position.

Her handling of the executions this year is one example. She is a graduate of human rights studies at Oslo University and a former member of a fact-finding team investigating the death of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. She could therefore have brought some much-needed nuanced insight to the issue of capital punishment for drug offenders in Indonesia. Instead, she chose only to repeat the government line of no compromise.

What does it require to effectively counter ISIS online? John Gooding thinks it's a narrative:

These corrective responses would be far more viable on networks where it was difficult or impossible to ban individual participants. On Twitter, individual hash tags may be an example of this kind of network, as Twitter reportedly does not block hash tags and even if it did, accounts run by ISIS supporters are known to hijack hash tags associated with unrelated events or issues. A recent tweet from @fight_DAESH with a hash tag referencing an ISIS propaganda video is a good example of engaging on such a network (albeit a week or so too late in this instance). Posting tweets with hash tags used by ISIS supporters does, however, mean the unavoidable publicising of those hash tags, which may lead @fight_DAESH's immediate followers to ISIS material.

A terrifying rundown of the political economy of climate change negotiations from Julian Snelder:

So the problem definition is simple. We have a fixed bucket of carbon units left and we must ration them. But in reality the solution will be preposterously difficult to implement. It will hurt everyone. It will only work if the whole world can coordinate on a tax mechanism, or there will be huge incentives to cheat. Harder still, countries like Venezuela must be convinced to leave buried their troves of devil's excrement.

Also Samir Saran on Indian 'exceptionalism' and climate change:

My response to the thesis of 'Indian exceptionalism' therefore is that India does not seek to be an exception, but the demands imposed upon it that will require it to be exceptional. This is a truth for others to accept, and the climate reality for which India must discover creative policy. 

Milton Osborne wrote a short and insightful piece on the Cambodian refugee crisis of the late 1970s that's well worth reading:

The Cambodian refugee crisis had a solution, but one that reflected a very different set of circumstances from what is occurring in Europe now. Most importantly, the majority of refugees hoped to return to their own country. What seems to mark out the current crisis is the hope of most of the migrants to move permanently to new homes.

Hannah Wurf attended the launch of the W20 in Turkey and thinks there are a few challenges ahead in order for the group to have some policy impact:

The second challenge is to agree on definitions for gender equality and women's empowerment. In Prime Minister Davuto?lu's speech, his concept of gender equality was based on the premise that men and women are created equal before God. In contrast, UN Women defines gender equality in terms of equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys.

The treaty review committee of the Australian Parliament has tabled its report on the Australia-India civil nuclear agreement. John Tilemann wrote a summary of the reports recommendations, many of which will not please India:

India has only very reluctantly opened its nuclear regulatory environment to international scrutiny, and the implied criticisms of these recommendations will be most unwelcome. It would also be quite unprecedented to bring an agreement into force and then apply further preconditions for the fulfilment of its primary purpose – the sale of uranium. The better treaty making practice would be to fix these matters prior to entry into force as urged by a minority of JSCOT members.

Photo courtesy of Australian Defence Image Library.

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