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December 16, 2008

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MSK*

Dear Mark,

I'm surprised that you're surprised. (And ditto for Spencer Ackerman) I don't recall a time in the last decades where the numbers were any different. And I highly doubt that the vast majority of polled will have thought long and hard about the intricacies and grand power politics associated with the U.S. bases in the Gulf.

U.S. foreign policy never got much popular support in the MidEast. And the American public has ever been quite delusional about it's country's standing in the world ...

--MSK*

delmarva

What's up with the Nigerians and Kenyans?

Tamara Cofman Wittes

Marc,

Apropos of your comment, an article in today's NYT tells us:

China Close to Naval Mission in Gulf of Aden

December 18, 2008
By MARK McDONALD

HONG KONG — In what would be the first active deployment of its warships beyond the Pacific, China appears set to send naval vessels to help in the fight against hijackers in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

A vice foreign minister and a leading naval strategist were quoted in Chinese state media on Wednesday as saying that Beijing was close to mounting a naval mission in the gulf.

“China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,” said the Foreign Ministry official, He Yafei, quoted by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. His remarks came at a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Li Jie, a military strategist and naval expert, told the state-run China Daily newspaper that cooperating with a multinational force operating against East African pirates would be a “very good opportunity” for the Chinese Navy.

“Apart from fighting pirates,” he said, “another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese Navy.”

The newspaper said earlier this month that Maj. Gen. Jin Yinan, a military planner at the National Defense University, had conceived the Gulf of Aden plan. The paper quoted General Jin as saying that “the Chinese Navy should send naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to carry out antipiracy duties.”

“If one day the Chinese Navy sends ships to deal with pirates,” he said, “nobody should be shocked.”

On Wednesday, an international anti-piracy force rescued a Chinese cargo ship that had been taken over by pirates, the Associated Press reported. After the crew sent a distress signal, the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center dispatched two helicopters that fired at the ship, causing the pirates to flee, the news agency reported.

Traditionally concerned with coastal defense, the Chinese Navy has been undergoing a wide and rapid modernization, especially in the bolstering of its submarine fleet. A long-range goal of the Chinese expansion has been the development of a navy capable of extended tours far from home.

About 60 percent of China’s imported oil comes from the Middle East, and much of that passes through the gulf, along with huge shipments of raw materials from Africa. Last month, two Chinese ships were hijacked there, a fishing trawler and a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship carrying wheat.

“I would think they would go to protect their own interests — just for escorting purposes and not for policing,” said Jane Chan, an associate research fellow in the Maritime Security Program at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “I don’t think they’re talking about going on the offensive right now so far away.”

While China has been “quite wary of putting maritime assets in the region and wary of doing anything out in the open,” Chinese diplomats have been active in anti-piracy efforts, according to Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association.

“The Chinese have been working diplomatically with the Yemeni government and coast guard, and their ambassador in Nairobi is very heavily involved,” Mr. Bowring said. “They may not seem out in front, but they work extremely hard in the back seat.”

To help combat the dramatic rise of increasingly brazen pirate attacks in the gulf, the European Union deployed its first-ever naval mission this month, a six-ship flotilla. The E.U. operation, code-named Atalanta, joined other navies already patrolling there, including those from the United States, Russia and India.

“China is usually quite conservative about playing with the big guys or saying they’re going to match up with them,” said Ms. Chan.

Also this month, the Security Council passed a resolution allowing navies to breach Somalia’s 12-mile territorial limit while pursuing suspected pirates. And on Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to permit attacks on pirate bases on the ground as well.

Although pirates use oceangoing “mother ships” to attack merchant vessels deep in international waters, they are resupplied and find safe haven in towns along the lawless coast of Somalia. Many anti-piracy experts have pressed for international strikes against the pirate bases on land.

“Piracy is a symptom of the state of anarchy which has persisted in that country for over 17 years,” said the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. “This lawlessness constitutes a serious threat to regional stability and to international peace and security.”

More than 100 vessels have been attacked by pirates in the gulf this year, and 42 have been hijacked. Sixteen are currently being held for ransom, including a fully loaded Saudi supertanker, the Sirius Star, and a Ukrainian ship, the Faina, carrying a load of 32 battle tanks and other heavy weapons. About 250 crew members also are being held on the various hijacked ships.

nygdan

Whats going on with Pakistan? 45% think its a bad idea? And then, what, 55% don't think its a bad idea?

Ambika

Mr Lynch,

I'm not particularly surprised at most of the results on that chart. Along the same lines, the organziation where I work is launching a new report on the Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, and a major section of the report examines the number of US troops in the region and how is has increased in the past two decades. The report examines a variety of costs, but highlights how this is a major result of the ongoing conflict and how people within the region view this.
An excerpt of the report is available on our website
www.strategicforesight.com.

Please let me know if you or others would be interested in more information.

Zathras

The issue here in the years ahead will not be how foreign public opinion views overseas American military deployments, but how the various nations now contemplating deploying their own forces relate to one another. A forward-deployed Chinese navy, for example, is bound to find itself in close proximity to its Japanese counterpart at some point.

seth edenbaum

A question I'd ask is what percentage of the %70 of Americans who are in favor of US bases would consider themselves to be card carrying Internationalists?

"Public diplomacy -- and grand strategy -- need to take such findings a bit more seriously."

Public diplomacy for you and those like you, means propaganda for foreign consumption followed by discussions of Smith-Mundt. But I would bet the majority, in any country, of those opposed to US bases are opposed to power politics and propaganda altogether.


ptc

Nigerians like Americans.

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