Last weekend, the worst mass shooting in American history occurred in Orlando Florida at an LGBT nightclub, killing at least 50 people and injuring a further 53. The act, committed by Omar Mateen, sparked debates on terrorism, gun control, mental illness and homophobia, rippling into the US presidential election. Mateen had previously been investigated by the FBI as a potential terrorist suspect, but his case was eventually closed. This week, David Wells wrote on the nonlinear pathway to radicalisation and the limits of counter-terrorism agencies:
Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the FBI and intelligence agencies across the world will no doubt be asked to re-assess individuals they have previously ruled out as potential terrorists. Mateen is not the first individual to carry out terrorist attacks having previously been investigated by counter-terrorism authorities, and he is unlikely to be the last.
This is in part because the extraordinary powers afforded to counter-terrorism agencies do not extend to reliably predicting the future behaviour of often unstable individuals. Difficult as it might be in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, we need to break the cycle that seeks to immediately apportion blame to individuals or organisations other than those directly responsible.
Is the normative barrier in regards to violence moving? Anne-Marie Balbi:
Recent events, be it hooligans at a soccer game or the bashing of atheists in Bangladesh, are proof that around the globe the normative barriers that stop people crossing the line to the use of violence are eroding. Most people now acknowledge the US has a problem with its gun laws but the issue is much wider than that. Countries around the world are building up their military arsenals against perceived threats and this has a trickle-down effect, sending messages of distrust that resonate across societies.
Rodger Shanahan looked at the possible ISIS connection:
So, rather than deciding whether such attacks are conducted by homophobes, or angry men with invisible lives, or by the mentally ill, we should try to understand the ability of ISIS to motivate small numbers of Muslims to kill their fellow citizens by appealing to a distorted sense of religious identity, and to channel the anger that real or perceived injustices have fomented. And in this regard we are still some way from understanding the triggers that enable some Muslims to equate their religious identity with an obligation to kill innocents from all walks of life and from all faiths and ethnic groups. Until we do, expect more of these types of attacks, even after ISIS suffers a terminal defeat on the battlefield.
In terms of geopolitical events this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up a significant visit to Washington. Uma Purushothaman was quick to water down any notions of an impending alliance between the US and India as some hope:
Clearly, India will continue to walk the diplomatic tightrope between its relationship with the US and its other partners like China and Russia and its domestic developmental needs and the demands made on it by the US. Modi’s visit built on the legacies of Prime Ministers A B Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh and helped the relationship overcome the 'hesitations of history'. It underscored the alignment between the two countries on most issues. But it also underlined that while India and the US are aligned on many fronts, there is a long distance to go before they become allies.
Abhijit Singh was similarly sceptical and pointed to the joint communique that did not contain any language on the South China Sea:
These recent developments may have served to excite India's maritime analysts, but in and of themselves they do not constitute a correction to the traditional Indian thinking on maritime affairs in the Asia-Pacific. For discerning observers, Parrikar's speech in Singapore was a restatement of an old Indian position, packaged attractively to highlight 'optics' over 'substance'. As always, the idea was to underscore Indian 'interests' in Southeast Asia, while consciously side-stepping any discussion of polarising challenges in the region. In that respect, the Minister seemed to stick to the script, making general comments on the need for a peaceful resolution to the disputes in the South China Sea, but avoiding any references to China.
However, Dalbir Ahlawat said that may not be completely necessary to signal strategic intent:
India is still optimistic that China will budge on the NSG issue, as occurred in 2008 when the Group granted a special waiver to India. Perhaps keeping this in mind, there were no references to the South China Sea in the joint statement released by Modi and Obama. This was to give China a chance for second thought. Considering other major countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines and Vietnam have renewed their relationship with the US as part of the Obama Administration's rebalance to the Indo-Pacific region, the ball is in the Chinese court as to how it will respond.
While not mentioning the South China Sea, the joint statement outlined that no one country would be allowed to dominate the Asia-Pacific region and should respect the Law of the Sea and freedom of navigation. In a 'road map', US and India have clearly outlined a position against a unipolar Asia headed by China.
Moving on the the impending Brexit vote, Daniel Woker believes the 'Leave' campaign misses the point:
If this is paradoxical for a country like the US, whose history is built on successful integration of immigrants from many parts of the world ('E pluribus unum'), the argument is equal nonsense for Great Britain, which has absorbed a far larger number of immigrants from the far-flung corners of its past Empire (India, Pakistan, the Caribbean) than any amount of Polish plumbers, Romanian carpenters and Lithuanian coffee-house owners ever likely to come to the British Isles. Not only has it absorbed the former, it has made them part of the national narrative through role models such as the newly elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Also, Richard Johnson looked at the strange split in the UK Labour party over the referendum:
There are two reasons why Labour might come to regret its unqualified europhilia. The first is a question of electoral survival. One-third of Labour supporters will be voting 'Leave' on 23rd June. Most of these come from the party's working-class base and are at serious risk of defection to other parties, especially UKIP (UK Independence Party). The second reason is programmatic. Labour is badly mistaken in its belief that the EU is an unqualified friend of socialism and working-class politics. As Jeremy Corbyn wrote in 2009, before his volte face on the issue earlier this year, 'the [EU] project has always been to create a huge free-market Europe, with ever-limiting powers for national parliaments'.
China is moving up the manufacturing ladder in robotics wrote Julian Snelder this week:
Two unrelated events on the other side of the world last week prove the point. In Germany, sportswear maker Adidas announced it was bringing home an athletic shoe factory from China and elsewhere by using robots. Meanwhile, a Chinese appliance maker has moved to increase its shareholding in German robot supplier KUKA from 15% to 30%; possibly enough to secure management control and KUKA's valuable portfolio of intellectual property (it is one of four firms along with ABB, FANUC and Yaskawa dominating industrial robot technology). Beijing has a powerful policy imperative to move into automation, a key element of the emerging 'Fourth Industrial Revolution.' The government has encouraged a highly exuberant program that looks like it could become a 'robot bubble'. China's ambition has moved from making shoes, to investing in robots to make shoes, to making robots.
The Interpreter continued its coverage of the PNG student protests. Jenny Hayward-Jones considered the immediate aftermath of last week's escalation, when police opened fire on unarmed students but decided the long view was more important:
The real measure of success, however, will be seen in how the students seek to continue to influence change in Papua New Guinea after they graduate, both collectively and as individuals. The conviction and commitment to values that comes easily to youth may weaken when it is time for these students to navigate their way through the complexity of PNG politics. Many of the leaders now tainted with corruption allegations were idealistic student activists themselves once. Just standing for election in Papua New Guinea is an expensive business; achieving power and holding onto it within the parliament quite simply requires a capacity to distribute cash or other benefits. It is an extraordinarily difficult feat for politicians to effect change in Papua New Guinea without access to large sums of cash and the pressures on members of parliament are immense. If even some of the protesting students can maintain a principled stand against corruption and work to change the business of politics they will do more for their nation than forcing Peter O’Neill to resign now.
And then this powerful piece from Bal Kama:
The spread of protest throughout many provincial towns was evidence of the people’s support for the student movement. These students do not need to summon the spirits of Magna Carta to assert their rights against the sovereign or seek solace in the comforting provisions of international conventions. However, those who participated in a peaceful march to Parliament last week — a legitimate constitutional act — were dismissed as unlawful ‘agitators’ by Prime Minister O’Neill. However, his contempt for the students does not mean he underestimates their potency. PNG’s brief political history has shown that the shedding of blood is a point of no return for the university student movement. The students may not oust O’Neill in his constituency, but they will certainly work to influence voting in their respective villages and districts to prevent O’Neill’s political party, the People National Congress (PNC), from returning to government.
Continuing the coverage of Australia's federal election, Geoff Kitney delved into the world view of Tanya Plibersek:
When Plibersek stood for pre-selection for the left-controlled New South Wales seat of Sydney (which takes in all the old working class suburbs of the city as well as the most-exclusive), among those who worked to win it for her were a procession of some of the veteran opponents of the US alliance and campaigners for the removal of US bases from Australian soil, most notable among them the then elder statesman of left politics, Tom Uren.
But while Plibersek was backed by the isolationist left, her entry into politics came after the great convergence of Labor and the coalition parties on foreign and defence policy. This was the big shift by Labor in the 1980s to a more pragmatic, conventional, US alliance-centred foreign policy, engineered by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Foreign Minister Bill Hayden.
Tim Wright wrote on the global movement towards a treaty that would seek to prohibit all nuclear weapons:
Over the past few years, there has been a shift in the diplomatic discourse away from abstract notions of 'deterrence' and 'geopolitical stability' towards a focus on what nuclear weapons do to people, our societies, the economy and the environment. Many states now view stigmatisation — through prohibition and public awareness raising — as essential for disarmament.
Recently, the IMF showed some signs of debating the merits of neoliberalism. Stephen Grenville:
So it looks like the Fund hasn't moved much at all on fiscal advice: build up fiscal space with budget surpluses so that the budget can soften a downturn by allowing the automatic stabilisers to operate when budget revenue falls and unemployment benefits rise. Even the hard-core proponents of fiscal rectitude would find nothing to disagree with here. But this says nothing about whether the US, the UK and Europe (which clearly were not threatened with loss of market access) were right to impose austerity in the recovery phase from the 2008 crisis.
An interesting angle on the EU's migration policy and its efforts to stem the flow of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Casper Wuite:
The EU's policy of containment, restriction, and determent of refugees appear to matter little to those deciding whether or not to make the trip to Europe. Border fences, detention and turning back boats at best divert the flow of migrants but crucially do not break the smugglers' business model that is built on an imbalance between supply and demand. In this sense, the policy suffers from the same economic flaws of the war on drugs of the last three decades. This weekend, Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj rejected a Turkey-style deal, refusing to accept migrants picked up at sea back into Libya. This decision further calls the feasibility of the EU's strategy into question.
Andrew Ghiselli looked at how the PLAN might be trying to transform itself into a 'post-modern' navy, one with global and national responsibilities:
China has started, more or less consciously, to walk this path. This, indeed, is not a decision entirely up to China: its interests abroad have already reached a significant size and have become the target of threats that cannot be eliminated only through diplomacy. At the same time, solutions to the disputes in Asia does not look close at hand, and without that, any 'post-modern' development will remain fragile. The increasingly ambivalent role of the PLAN, both a tool to win regional hegemony and as a force for the common good, is the natural result of such a complex situation. Hence, it does make sense to pay great attention to the PLAN in Asia, but the global picture should not be neglected as well.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images