World update: August 1 2018



The Georgian military opened its Noble Partner 2018 exercises with soldiers from the United States and several other NATO members on Wednesday. Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili took the opportunity to slam Russia for continuing to occupy the breakaway region of South Ossetia and support the breakaway region of Abkhazia, both of which Georgia still considers to be part of its own territory.


An new and unfortunately violent dynamic is beginning to play out between the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan, as the groups adjust to a new push for peace talks between the Taliban and the US/Kabul. ISIS has markedly increased its activity in recent weeks and is clearly making a play for disgruntled Taliban fighters who don’t agree with the idea of peace talks and who might be interested in leaving the Taliban. And so the Taliban is taking the fight to ISIS: between 200 and 250 ISIS fighters surrendered to government forces in Jowzjan province on Wednesday after being defeated by the Taliban. Increasingly it’s the Taliban that is dealing ISIS its worst defeats on the battlefield, which explains why its most successful recent attacks have been of the terrorist variety. Which could bring the Taliban and Kabul together, or could motivate some ISIS factions to switch sides and go over to the government, or some combination of the two.


The United States is concerned that if Pakistan receives an International Monetary Fund bailout it could simply send that money off to China to help pay its Belt and Road-related debts. Pakistani officials say these concerns are “totally wrong” and that the country needs IMF help for reasons unrelated to making its loan payments to Beijing.


Indian cabinet minister Arun Jaitley says that the government had no choice but to essentially strip citizenship from four million predominantly Muslim residents of Assam state and force them to provide proof of residence to get it back: the Muslim population of Assam is just growing way too fast, you see, much faster than its Hindu population. Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound at all bigoted.


Donald Trump has ordered his administration to consider an additional 10 or 25 percent tariff on another $200 billion in Chinese imports. This is in response to China’s retaliation for the last round of US tariffs, which some in the administration believe might have included a deliberate currency devaluation, and so around and around we continue to go.

Joshua Keating details the many ways the Chinese government is trying to remove any doubt as to whether or not Taiwan is Beijing’s property:

It’s not just governments that are feeling the heat. Chinese pressure also led to the cancellation of the 2019 East Asian Youth Games, a multimillion-dollar sporting event that was to be held in the Taiwanese city of Taichung next year. Taiwanese LGBTQ rights activists have accused China of pressuring the organizers of next month’s Gay Games in Paris to ban the Taiwanese national flag from the competition.

Beijing set a deadline last week for 44 international airlines to drop all references to Taiwan from their websites and other materials and refer to cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung as part of China. While the consequences of ignoring the demand were never specified, all have now complied—a testament to the importance of the Chinese market. (A few have just dropped all references to countries.)

After an uproar in May, the Gap was forced to apologize for selling a T-shirt showing a map of China that did not include Taiwan, issuing a statement on microblogging site Sina Weibo affirming that it “respects the integrity of China’s sovereignty and territory.”


The Diplomat’s Janice Feng believes it’s time to stop conceiving of Taiwan as an integral part of China and start treating it as a Chinese colony:

Long before the ROC and its subjects came to Taiwan, over centuries, Taiwanese peoples from many origins and ethnicities had already lived as Taiwanese, an identity that was anything but Chinese. And this collective identity, despite KMT’s 40 years of one-party authoritarian rule, resisted and persisted. Indigenous peoples and groups today still have vibrant and lively cultures and social and political organizations. Indigenous ancestry is widely being acknowledged. Indigenous peoples continue laying claims to traditional territory, hunting rights, and state recognition. In recent years, broader alliances between radical pro-independence activists and indigenous activists have been in the making. This new “chain of equivalence,” to quote Ernesto Laclau and Chantel Mouffe, rejects the Chinese-centric ideology and conceives Taiwan as its subject, and most of all, an indigenous island.

Under this framework, the ROC is a Chinese settler-colonial state that imposed itself on Taiwan and exerted political control over Taiwan and its surrounding islands. Thus it is mistaken to treat Taiwan simply as an extension of China (the PRC) or regard it as an imperial periphery of China. We need to recognize Taiwan as a Pacific Island country and revive its vibrant indigenous cultures as the common root of Taiwan.



Moroccan King Mohammed VI sacked his economy and finance minister, Mohamed Boussaid on Wednesday. There’s not much to this–the Moroccan economy is in rough shape and that continues to stir public unrest, so periodically somebody has to get scalped.


A group of gunmen attacked a convoy carrying election materials in central Mali’s Ségou province on Wednesday, and in the ensuing battle eight attackers and four Malian soldiers were killed. It’s not entirely clear who the attackers were or what the convoy was carrying–ballots, presumably, but that’s speculative.

Speaking of election-related fun, 15 of the candidates who were on the ballot in Sunday’s presidential vote are alleging ballot stuffing, vote buying, and various other kinds of fraud in the election. No results have yet been released.


Those three Russian journalists who were killed in the CAR earlier this week were apparently there for an independent Russian media outlet to investigate the Russian mercenary group Wagner, not simply to make a documentary about it. I’m not sure this helps explain how they were killed–it’s not like violence in the CAR is rare–but it does raise some questions.


What seemed like a relatively smooth Zimbabwean election on Monday is rapidly descending into violence:

Three people have been killed in Harare as soldiers and police fought running battles with hundreds of protesters, firing live ammunition, teargas and water cannon amid rising tension following Zimbabwe’s presidential election.

The army was deployed in the capital on Wednesday after police proved unable to quell demonstrators who claim Monday’s historic election is being rigged.

By mid-afternoon much of the city centre resembled a war zone, with military helicopters flying overhead, armoured personnel carriers moving through burning debris and patrols of soldiers chasing stone throwers down narrow streets. A pall of smoke filled the sky. On cracked pavements there was glass and – in some places – blood.

MDC candidate Nelson Chamisa has declared victory over President Emmerson Mnangagwa without any presidential results having yet been made public. He’s since accused the country’s electoral commission of delaying the release of the vote totals in order to give itself time to manipulate them in Mnangagwa’s favor. If Chamisa has won it would be a bit incongruous with the already released results of the parliamentary election, which show Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party winning a two-thirds majority.



Finally, Stephen Walt explains why he refused to sign on to a recently circulated petition (which became an advertisement in the New York Times) defending the “liberal international order” from the threat posed by Donald Trump:

Second, the ad reinforces the nostalgia for the “liberal international order” that is now an article of faith among Trump’s many critics. As Andrew Bacevich, Patrick Porter, Paul Staniland, Graham Allison, and others have noted, the so-called liberal order wasn’t quite the nirvana that people now suggest. It was never a global order, and there was an awful lot of illiberal behavior even by countries and leaders who constantly proclaimed liberal values. The United States propped up plenty of authoritarian rulers throughout the Cold War (and has continued to do so ever since), and Washington didn’t hesitate to break the rules of the liberal order whenever it saw fit, as it did when it dismantled the Bretton Woods system in 1971 and when it invaded Iraq in 2003.

Third, the ad does not adequately acknowledge the degree to which some of the institutions it defends are in fact a source of much of the trouble we now face. NATO was an important and valuable institution during the Cold War, for example, and it clearly magnified U.S. influence. But a good case can be made that NATO has been a disruptive force since then, mostly by pursuing an open-ended and ill-conceived eastward expansion. Similarly, the creation of the WTO and the headlong pursuit of what my colleague Dani Rodrik calls “hyper-globalization” has clearly had deleterious economic effects for millions and played no small part in the populist avalanche that has been reshaping politics throughout the Western world and beyond.

Hi, how’s it going? Thanks for reading; attwiw wouldn’t exist without you! If you’ve enjoyed this or any other posts here, please share widely and help build our audience. You can follow this site (and like, share, etc. its content) on lots of social media outlets. I’m now accepting guest submissions, just email me. Most critically, if you’re a regular reader I hope you’ll read this and consider helping this place to stay alive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.