Good Reads: America's Palestinian veto, war with China, and meet the Haqqanis

When the UN Security Council votes on Palestinian statehood, will the US have some backing for its expected veto? And how much longer can the US put off the unthinkable: a war with China?

• Good Reads highlights the best reporting and analysis available on the top international stories of the day – and other key topics you shouldn't miss.

After all of last week’s hoopla, the flag waving and cheering in Ramallah, and the warnings of dire consequences from Tel Aviv, it is now time to study the details and the implications of the Palestinian Authority’s proposal for United Nations recognition as a nation state.

In New York, the Monitor’s Howard LaFranchi looks closely at the 15 members of the UN Security Council and shows that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s speech on Friday may not have won over as many supporters as he needs.

Of the five permanent members, only the US is likely to use its veto against the proposal, but others, such as France and China might prefer a middle solution, such as nonvoting membership status, similar to that enjoyed by the Vatican.

Non-permanent Council countries such as Colombia may vote alongside the US against the proposal while Nigeria, Gabon, and Bosnia are also said to be wavering.

Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian representative of the UN, put a brave face on the situation: “This is an exercise in which there will be tremendous pressure on members of the Security Council, but we trust in our friends."

Speaking of 'friends'

In some foreign policy circles these days, China is portrayed as the Americans’ bête noire. Western officials often see China as a spoiler, particularly with its willingness to do business as usual with dictators and human-rights abusers. Meanwhile, complicating ties, is the fact that developing countries are increasingly looking to China as a model for rapid development, and as a defender of their rights against what they see as an overly intrusive West.

But could China and the US actually go to war?

In Foreign Policy magazine, Robert Haddick reviews a new book that contemplates just that; encouraging the US to broach a subject that has been largely off the tables in Washington. The book, “A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia,” by Aaron Friedberg, focuses on the security challenges that China presents, and how China is able to simultaneously spar against and trade with the US.

As Mr. Haddick writes,

It has been two centuries, with its struggles against Britain, since the United States faced a strategic adversary that was simultaneously a broad and deep trading and financial partner. Friedberg catalogs the numerous business and academic interests inside the United States that profit from their relationships with China and who seek to downplay the strategic rivalry. Finally there are China's tactics, which emphasize patience and outwardly profess modesty about China's intentions and capabilities. Meanwhile, according to Friedberg, China seeks "to win without fighting" by establishing alternative networks and alliances that will eventually supplant and replace those global institutions created and defended by the United States and its allies.

Meet the Haqqanis

This must be a season for shaky alliances, because the New York Times published a great piece about the Pakistan-based Haqqani family and their ongoing war against the US inside Afghanistan. In recent days, American military commanders have become more open in their criticism of the Pakistani government for either supporting the Haqqani family, or for doing little to shut them down.

As Owais Tohid writes in the Monitor, these US accusations anger Pakistani officials and have brought the US-Pakistani relationship to its lowest point in decades.

And in the New York Times, Mark Mazzett, Scott Shane, and Alissa J. Rubin dig deep to find out just who the Haqqanis are.

The answer comes close to a Pakistani version of the “Sopranos,” a criminal family with a number of unsavory businesses. Such a family might have had its uses for the Americans during the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, but when the US is trying to prop up a stable, democratic regime in Kabul, the Haqqanis and their Pakistani supporters have worn out their welcome.

Few in Washington believe that Pakistan’s support of armed militia groups has diminished. American officials who were once optimistic they could change Pakistani behavior through cajoling and large cash payments now accept a sober reality: as long as Pakistan sees its security under threat by India’s far larger army, it will rely on militant groups like the Haqqanis, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba as occasional proxy forces.

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