Highlights Of OEWatch For March 2016
Each month the US Army’s think tank the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) publishes its open source OEWatch magazine. It’s a superb brief that features excerpts of news about ongoing wars and crises. These snippets gathered from various media outlets are accompanied by informed commentary that’s strong on context and analysis.
The FMSO releases OEWatch, together with its vast library of research papers on geopolitical issues, as free downloads.
The March 2016 issue of OEWatch runs 69 pages and its headline is Strategic Landpower: The View From China.
According to the OEWatch staff list the content is prepared by Editor-in-Chief Tom Wilhelm together with Editors Ray Finch and Harry Orenstein. The magazine’s layout is done by Design Editor Keith French. This issue’s commentary is provided by 24 “regional analysts and expert contributors.”
This month’s OEWatch is divided into nine sections and a Special Essay on page 65. The longest section is Russia, Ukraine and shortest belongs to Europe. The familiar Turkey section is brief and its coverage is divided between three topics. On page 5 is commentary on an emerging alliance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia owing both countries’ fight against ISIS.
The Middle East section is dominated by Iran–two entries are about Tehran’s vaunted Basij militia–and on page 8 is a scoop on a newly-developed anti-ship missile. On page 11 and 12 are multiple excerpts shedding light on Syria’s unofficial Russian-backed army, the 4th Corps, which is cobbled together from different militias.
The Africa section remains fixated on Boko Haram’s uprising in Nigeria and its impact on the region. On page 16, however, the commentary offers a substantial analysis on the unraveling of Burundi. The small Central African state could host a peacekeeping force to stem the tide of violence inflicted by the Nkurunziza regime against the people.
The Latin America section is rife with intrigue. On page 20 is an interesting scoop on the Venezuelan armed forces’ commercial activities. It turns out the Fuerzas Bolivarianas runs its own oil and mining conglomerate even when the national economy is falling apart. On page 21 is a short essay trying to make sense of Venezuela’s collapse and hints at an emerging junta who may run the country.
On page 24 is a very detailed analysis of Russia’s trade with Argentina, whose newly-minted President Macri might prefer doing business with Brazil and the US instead.
The Indo-Pacific Asia section is focused on terror threats to the region. Entries on page 27 and 28 cover the delicate issue of ISIS cells activating in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. This appears to have manifested in the latter territory when the Philippine Army launched an assault on an Islamist militia just a month later.
The commentary on page 29 offers a rare glimpse inside the national leadership of Laos, which is facing pressure to sustain economic growth in a one-party Communist state.
The China, Korea, Japan sections is enamored with the PLA and its activities to the detriment of any news about either Japan or Korea. On page 33 is a very helpful brief on the PLA’s reorganization into five regional commands that encompass all of China. The creation of these “theaters” are in line with the PLA’s overhaul under Xi Jinping.
Aside from an update on the Russian military’s token presence in Tajikistan, the Central Asia section is under-served. It’s in ensuing 20-odd pages of the Russia, Ukraine section that OEWatch gets into gear. There’s extremely detailed analysis of Russia’s formidable electronic warfare capabilities on page 41. Superb entries are found on page 44 until 44 discussing the role of NCOs in the Russian army. Just as good is The Evolution of the Russian Military Police System on page 48. For the Russia, Ukraine section alone OEWatch is a treat for Moscow watchers.
The March OEWatch concludes with Timothy Thomas’ take on China’s vast ground forces in his Special Essay Strategic Landpower: The View From China. It’s a ponderous reads with some nuggets on how the PLA might conduct itself in the event of a ground war. Thomas’ endnotes are worth checking since it lists numerous primary sources from Chinese writers.
OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers are encouraged to download their own copies and find the content that’s most relevant to their curiosity.