Argument

Why Brazil Won

How Lula brought the Olympic Games to his rising power.

As of today, Brazil certainly has a lot more to boast about. Aside from its beautiful beaches, world-famous carnival, crowd-drawing soccer, and a renowned HIV/AIDS program, Brazil is the next host of the summer Olympic Games as declared by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen -- beating out Tokyo, Madrid, and even an Obama-backed Chicago bid. This is indeed a momentous event -- and one that comes after several years of strategy, planning, and arduous efforts by Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Now, Lula will be rewarded with yet another venue to showcase Brazil and to signal the country's growing international influence. In short, the Olympic Games will reaffirm the government's international reputation as a leader among emerging nations.

For those familiar with Brazil's athletic history, today's decision seems only natural. The country breathes sports -- everything from Nascar racing, to volleyball, to soccer, to martial arts. And more importantly, perhaps, to the International Olympic Committee, the country has a long history of hosting international sporting events. In 1963, for example, Brazil hosted the Fourth Pan American games in São Paulo, drawing in thousands of competitors and spectators. The Pan American Games were once again hosted in 2007 in Rio, providing even more recent evidence of Brazil's commitment and ability to host international games.

Wisely, however, Lula did not rely on this culture and history alone to propel his bid. In recent years, the president seems to have been taking notes on how other countries have increased their odds. Among the lessons he garnered was the importance of physically attending the presentation and vote to stake his claim. He noted then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts in 2007, for example, when Blair traveled to Copenhagen, made a strong case for London, and came home with the 2012 summer games. In 2005, then President Vladimir Putin showed up before the Olympic Committee in Guatemala to lobby for Russia's bid to host the 2014 Winter Games, which he won. Following in their footsteps, Lula made it very clear early on that he was planning to travel to Copenhagen to fight for Brazil's right to the Olympics. In sharp contrast, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he would attend only at the last minute. Loving soccer as he does, Lula no doubt saw this as a competitive challenge -- one that he clearly gamed masterfully.

While in Copenhagen, Lula was also very strategic in his country's presentation before the committee. He brushed aside concerns of violence and crime in Rio, and to the president's credit, the Olympic Committee praised Brazil for recent security improvements. Lula also claimed that the Olympics would help build Brazil, and especially the city of Rio de Janeiro, by providing jobs for the poor, integrating civil society, and building a spirit of peace and cooperation through sport. Such a prospect no doubt appealed to the committee as this goal was one of the original touted benefits of the modern Olympics Games, dating back to their genesis at the end of the 19th century.

Most important, though, was Lula's argument that Brazil deserved and needed the Olympics. Richer countries had had their turn, Lula said, and now it was Brazil's chance. Brazil ranks 10th among the world's wealthiest countries, but it is the only one of them never to have hosted the games. It will be the first South American country to do so.

International sports tend to mirror politics. Today's decision will reveal, yet again, that Brazil is an emerging power, and that it has the talent, infrastructural capacity, and political commitment needed to play competitively in global political (and athletic) games. Such an endorsement will only boost Lula's ability to shape international discussions and forge closer ties with other foreign leaders. Perhaps since Lula visited Beijing in 2008 and publicly supported the government's efforts, the president of China will return the favor in 2016.

There's also a larger story to tell about today's decision, one that speaks to other emerging nations on the brink of global power. Like Brazil, India's and South Africa's governments still confront a high degree of poverty, inequality, and weak infrastructure -- especially in rural areas. Like South Africa, recent winning bid for the soccer World Cup, Brazil's win shows that effective presidential stewardship, fearless competition, and a bit of strategy pays off at the international level and at home. Let the games begin!

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Argument

Does China Have Taiwan in a Strait Jacket?

With China-Taiwan relations nowhere near to being resolved, China's brand-new ballistic missiles are looking scarier than ever.

Six decades after the People's Republic of China was founded in the wake of Mao Zedong's victory over the nationalists, relations between the mainland and Taiwan are less contentious now than they have been in years. The May 2008 inauguration of Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan's president put an end to Chen Shui-bian's tumultuous eight years in office, precipitating a thaw in what had been frosty relations between Taipei and Beijing.

But observers shouldn't assume that the ostensible rapprochement means that all problems are solved. As long as the stalemate at the heart of the problem across the Taiwan Strait -- how the island's status will ultimately be determined -- remains unresolved, China and Taiwan's relationship will remain unresolved as well. And nothing so far suggests that this impasse is any nearer to being settled today than when Chen was in power. With the strait continuing to be a potential flashpoint for crisis, then, maintaining a military balance between China and Taiwan thus remains vital for stability. But over the last decade, this balance has been tilting in Beijing's favor -- a development that could have serious implications not just for the China-Taiwan relationship, but for all of China's neighbors in the region, including the United States.

A key part of China's arsenal is a large force of conventionally armed short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). The U.S. Department of Defense reported in this year's assessment of China's military that Beijing had deployed between 1,050 and 1,150 of these missiles and is adding to the stockpile at the rate of about 100 per year. The DoD report also says that the newer missiles offer "greater ranges, improved accuracy, and a wider variety of conventional payloads, including unitary and submunition warheads." These improvements change China's SRBMs from theoretical into actual threats.

A recent report that I coauthored with my RAND colleagues closely examines how China's new SRBMs could be used against Taiwan's air bases, assessing how many missiles of a given accuracy, carrying appropriate submunition warheads, would be needed to temporarily close every runway at each of Taiwan's 10 primary fighter bases.

Accuracy is measured by a missile's circular error probable (CEP), which is the radius of a circle around the target where 50 percent of the missiles fired will fall. Missiles with CEPs of 700-1,000ft (200-300m), accuracies characteristic of China's older SRBMs, are practically useless for attacking runways; they simply aren't sufficiently precise.

With smaller CEPs, however, such as the ones China is believed to be stockpiling, the job starts looking doable. With an accuracy of 130ft (40m), 200 SRBMs are needed. With very accurate missiles -- with CEPs of 16ft (5m) -- only 60 are required.


We performed a similar analysis to estimate how many submunition-equipped SRBMs would be required to have a 90 percent chance of destroying or damaging almost every aircraft not already in the air or parked in a hardened aircraft shelter. Again, with sufficiently accurate missiles and appropriate warheads, only about 30 to 40 SRBMs would be needed to accomplish this at all Taiwanese fighter bases.

In all, just 90 to 240 sufficiently accurate, submunition-equipped SRBMs would give China a better than fair shot at shutting down Taiwan's fighter force in a matter of minutes. If Taiwan's surface-to-air defenses can also be suppressed, a window would open through which the Chinese air force could fly perhaps hundreds of aircraft delivering precision-guided munitions on hardened air shelters and other targets too small or too hardened to be at risk from SRBMs. Blows like this could knock Taiwan's air force mostly out of the war in the opening hours of a conflict. U.S. bases that are relatively close to China, like those on Okinawa, will increasingly face a similar threat from China's modern missiles.

Chinese air superiority would allow Beijing to attack military and civilian targets on the island while suffering acceptable losses and would be vital for any serious cross-strait invasion attempt. Under these new circumstances, countering these dangers engendered by Chinese control of the air -- rather than dueling with them for control -- is a key wartime task for Taiwan.

Taiwan can take steps to address some of these problems, including further hardening measures, improved runway repair capabilities, decoys, and dispersal, along with better theater-missile defense capabilities. As China fields increasing numbers of more capable SRBMs, however, it will prove increasingly difficult for Taiwan to protect its military and civilian infrastructures from heavy damage, even with American help. Despite the calm political climate currently prevailing across the Taiwan Strait, this is a sobering finding.

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