Archive for January, 2011

Will Egypt Spark a Pakistani Upheaval?

The Progressive Realist posted an interesting piece today, connecting the current turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia with the internal instability in Pakistan. Critics of the Pakistani government and supporters of Egyptian style upheavals in the country have been encouraged by the development in Cairo. Is it possible for a “contagion effect” to spread across the region and lead to strife in Pakistan?

When pressed on this issue, Vice President Joe Biden, who has been visible in the region of late, dismissed such speculation and moved to view Egypt as a more independent phenomenon. Even if this turns out to be an isolated incident, the internal stability of Pakistan is one that the United States must worry about. Pakistan’s ascension to a well-armed nuclear power coupled with the touch-and-go nature of its infrastructure is a dangerous combination.

Pakistan has over 100 fully deployable nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The Progressive Realist raised the fears held by many Western nations that an internal revolution in Pakistan would allow for this large arsenal to be extremely vulnerable in one of the most unstable regions in the world. It seems that the United States is strongly linked to any possible chaotic rise and fall of the Pakistani internal order.

I’ll have an exploration of Pakistan’s nuclear program in my next post.


Progressive Realist post – “Explosive Pakistan”

What effects will the turmoil in Egypt have on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

Egypt, under Mr. Mubarak’s government, has remained an advocate of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and an ally to the US, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. In fact, according to the article below, Egypt receives $1 billion of aid per year from the US and Israel relies on Egypt as a major trading partner of natural gas.
In Israel, many speculate that if Mr. Mubarak is forced out of office, he may be replaced by a more pro-Palestinian government under the Muslim Brotherhood. If this occurs, Israel and the US will lose their only regional ally in the peace process.
As for Palestine, the situation is far more complicated. Mr. Mubarak has remained supportive of the western backed Palestinian Authority lead by the Fatah party. He has also arranged for negotiations between Fatah and Hamas. However, in Palestine both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are trying to remain neutral in this conflict. Perhaps one reason is because so many Palestinians rely on trade and open border relations with Egypt. Many speculate that if the Muslim Brotherhood was to come to power in Egypt that support for Hamas would grow inside Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian Authority.


China’s Gaping Wound: North Korea

With tensions rising in the Middle East regarding mass social uprisings forcing out a decades old autocrat and severely challenging another, it is easy to forget the increasing complications in the western Pacific. Nonetheless, China’s persistent ambivalent attitude to its communist neighbor has certain security experts questioning Chinese policy. Dispensing with the conservative and traditionalist ideologues, its current policy is one of irrationality, especially given the rules of an anarchic international system.

Two recent events, each sparking their own respective international condemnation, have received little, if any, major Chinese rebukes. Both the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island shelling are considered egregious violations of international law, and are linked to North Korea. China’s response? An envoy is sent to Pyongyang. Problem solved folks, you can all go home.


As China fails to deal with the increasingly belligerent North Korea, South Korea, Japan and the United States are left with little choice other than building up security within the region.

In a recent executive summary published by the International Crisis Group, economic reasons are cited for the void in China’s response. With botched economic reform campaign in 2009, North Korean stability is under growing Chinese review, where officials fear a collapse will bring numerous refugees into northern China. Regardless, what do a few thousand refugees constitute in relation to increased bi-lateral security talks between Tokyo and Seoul or growing US military and political presence in the region? For the long run, China is choosing a decidedly hazardous foreign policy, comprising its own security.

What should the United States do? Continue conducting military exercises, including in the contentious Yellow Sea. Tri-lateral talks between the US, Japan, and South Korea must continue in order to prepare contingency plans. If China is willing to harm its credibility, both regionally and internationally, by permitting a growing security threat, we have no choice. Irresponsibility is disastrous. It appears that the United State will have to put the west Pacific house back in order.

For more:


Are Current Policies to Decrease Violence in Mexico Working?

Just over a month ago, WikiLeaks revealed cables from American diplomats in Mexico discussing the status of the drug war. The dipomats expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the Mexican government’s efforts in decreasing the violence, in addition to concerns that certain areas were falling under the control of drug cartels.  The cables said that Mexico “suffered from squabbling and mistrust among agencies, intelligence missteps, and a less than complete dedication to the rule of law.”  However, Secretary of State Clinton visited the country on Monday to rebut these doubts about the continuing violence.  Although Clinton did not make any direct remarks about the cables, she voiced the United States’ support for Calderon’s efforts to put an end to the network of violence.  Clinton then compared Mexico’s current gang situation to New York 30 years ago.  She concluded that New York’s change to a safer area is due to a lot of reforms and law enforcement’s dedication and support. Thus, she ended her trip with a positive outlook and future for Mexico’s conflict.

The WikiLeaks cables revealed doubts about the progress of the drug war from those who have a considerable amount of knowledge and experience on the subject.  Although Clinton was optimistic and refuted any concerns, the uncertainty in  the cables still exists.  The drug war has been causing extreme violence in Mexico for four years now, and just last year it killed 15, 273 people.  The current policies are not producing the wanted results of curtailing the violence. Thus, the American diplomats in Mexico began to question the effectiveness of these programs.  Will the US continue to support policies that are not producing the preferred outcomes? If current policies are not working, should a different strategy be implemented? I think the cables are extremely significant and should not be ignored. The current policy has too much focus on the military aspect of the war.  Although this is a necessary component, it is not the only, or even the most important. The drug cartels get  power from their easy access to money and resources.  Therefore, policies should be targeting the gangs’ funding in addition to preventing the violence.


Smallpox Vaccine Eradication

In a recent article published by the Wall Street Journal, the United States and Russia are contemplating whether or not they will completely eradicate what is left of the smallpox  vaccine, which is kept in top secret freezers for safe keeping. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have been meeting to decide whether the stock of smallpox the United States and Russia currently hold should be eradicated or not. The reason for eradication is that the WHO believes that it is a giant security risk if it ends up in the wrong hands. On the other hand, the United States and Russia feel they should keep some stock of smallpox on hand for various reasons. One reason is that it can help with further scientific research. It can also be used in creating new drugs or vaccines in case of a potential outbreak. Other governments are wary because they are convinced that the smallpox could end up in the wrong hands or that other countries may possess stock of smallpox and will use it as a means of bioterrorism. Although the major countries of Russia and the US want to keep the stocks, smaller countries that have recently suffered from smallpox in the last  few decades are afraid of another outbreak, which could easily occur if the stocks remain. If all smallpox stocks were eradicated, there would be no chance of it  being stolen and used, causing a world-wide epidemic.

I think that the United States and Russia should eradicate the stocks of smallpox that they have. Although, I do think the two countries would be the best in terms of researching and securing the stock to keep it out of the hands of bioterrorists. I do understand the problems that the WHO, the CDC, and developing countries have with smallpox laying around in the United States and Russia. While these countries will be sure to keep it secured, things do happen and it is a potential security risk; one that could affect and probably kill millions if it was released. It seems to me that Russia and the United States are asserting their power by holding onto the smallpox. Even if it is for “research” I think it is a way for the two countries to show other countries they are the most powerful and have weapons that could potentially wipe out millions of people. Not to say that Russia or the US would use the smallpox by any means, but by storing it and just simply possessing it, it definitely gives them more power over those that do not. There are other ways to assert power, but safekeeping a deadly virus such as smallpox is not a safe way to go about it.


US establishes cybersecurity as a global priority

Howard Schmidt announced White House intentions of increasing diplomatic pressure on countries as a way of addressing problems related to cybersecurity. Schmidt was appointed by President Obama back in 2009 to oversee and coordinate efforts with regards to cybersecurity. In his remarks, Schmidt stressed the global nature of the problem. He cited the need for a cooperative approach, whereby the international arena could act preemptively.

There is currently a 10-year treaty in effect that is titled the Cybercrime Convention and has been ratified by 30 countries-the US and European nations. There are some key countries that have not yet signed the treaty-China and Russia. The treaty is aimed at collaborating efforts among member countries in “probing crimes” that have been committed on the internet and on computer networks.

I do think that there needs to be a more concerted effort to patrol the internet and to help ward off potentially cataclysmic instances of cyberwarfare. I also agree that this needs to be a group effort, because cyber attacks can leave any country in the international community equally vulnerable. The issue of cyberwarfare is so hard to regulate because of its deceptive and secretive nature. What we need is a united front to combat this elusive danger. Furthermore, the government must address the issue of cybersecurity as it relates to every facet of a country’s infrastructure and society. Resources can not simply be directed to protect government networks and computers.


Nuclear Talks With Iran Go Nowhere

Talks over the development of Iran’s nuclear program occurred in Istanbul, Turkey to no progression.  The negotiations were led by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton who was very disappointed with the roundabout nature of the talks.  The delegation of countries involved in the two day talks included France, Germany, Russia, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom.  Iran had come prepared with a different agenda and was not willing to compromise over the topic of its uranium enrichment.  Instead, Iran wanted to discuss nuclear proliferation and other regional issues not related to the topic at hand.  Baron Ashton was said during the talks to have proposed an updated compromise of a proposal shown to Iran last year that entailed developing Iranian uranium with Russia’s help into high-grade fuel rods for energy purposes.  The idea is that this would stop Iran from wanting to develop the amount of uranium needed to create a nuclear weapon.  However, this idea would seemingly be useless now as Iran has brought its uranium enrichment levels up to the amount proposed in the original compromise.  Sanctions continue to be held against Iran to slow development of its nuclear program but Iranian income is still flowing through its exportation of the valuable oil and gas it trades freely.

If leading world countries really are extremely worried about the rise of Iran as a nuclear power, then tougher sanctions need to be employed.  The talks with Iran are a diplomatic nightmare and a complete farce.  Iran knows that it has a strong grip or advantage with the situation because the employment of force is something that most countries are hesitant to bring to the table, especially in the wake of the Iraq War.  However, if Iran is deemed as a threat in the future, force might need to be employed anyways.  Iran is wagering on the rest of the world, specifically the United States, bluffing and not doing anything about their nuclear problem.  The United States insists that Iran is using the nuclear power goal as a front to make a nuclear weapon.  It would be a lot more helpful if there was visible evidence presented for supporting this assertion.  The situation is tricky because if this is the case then the most logical course of action would be to try to end Iran’s nuclear program altogether through diplomacy at first, and if talks fail, disrupt it through severe and crippling economic regulations or, as a last resort, direct action.  Regardless of Iran’s personal goals, the Iranian government should not have unregulated nuclear power.  Leading countries need to really push for regulations on how much uranium is produced and try to convince Iran to compromise; diplomacy is the most valuable tool right now but it needs to be put to use properly.  Cooperation on Iran’s behalf is needed so incentives need to be created.  Making an appealing case to Iranian authority is the most conflict-free method to pursue at the moment but this needs to be employed as soon as possible before Iran’s nuclear program can advance to a higher level of sophistication.  If this fails to work, then sterner approaches should be made with tougher sanctions placed.  I do not know the economic implications of placing sanctions on Iran’s oil trade or the legalities of such sanctions but if oil is the major source of income for the Iranian economy then crippling Iran’s finances would be a way of bringing Iran back to the table of compromise.  Lastly, my personal opinion sees Iran’s unwillingness to compromise as either a suggestion of ulterior motives or as an extremely misplaced sense of nationalism, causing unnecessary and, frankly, childish conflict.


– Patrick

China Japan Relationship

On January 20, in Bejing, China a security meeting was held between China and Japan regarding their strategic, mutually beneficial relationship. This plan will also allow other countries to potentially have the same relationship between other countries to create peace, stability, and prosperity.

The main discussions in China were about their international and regional security situation and their own defense policies. These policies could potentially lead to further security studies that will help the world security issues. Japan finally considers China to be a “friend” and would never make a policy that would negatively affect China.

South Korea Strikes Back

Counter to the suggestion to combat piracy in Somalia I provided last week, South Korea decided to take matters into their own hands. According to one of Time magazine’s online articles, the South Korean navy performed it’s first military action in international waters.

A South Korean cargo ship was captured by Somali pirates last week, provoking the South Koreans to deploy the Navy in a mission to liberate the cargo ship and all the crew. The entire crew was rescued after eight Somali pirates were killed and five were taken into custody.

South Korea has resorted to combating the pirate threat in the Gulf of Aden itself (with U.S. and Oman backup waiting). the Malaysian navy also had recent success in recapturing a hijacked cargo ship.  There remains the question of what action to take to combat piracy in the future, but also how to prevent a costly slow down in trade.  The article suggests these recent military successes against Somali pirates as an international effort, but there seems to be little coordination in establishing  internationally accepted policies in dealing with the pirate threat.  The detained pirates will be processed by South Korean courts, but Somaliland is already convicting Somali’s of piracy and combating pirates from near the source. Although the missions to rescue captured cargo vessels have been successes, nations would benefit more working together to combat and prevent piracy in an established international body. Having every nation affected patrolling the Gulf of Aden would not be sensible and would manpower and resources.,8599,2044062,00.html


Gates Begins to Trim the Military Budget

Early this month, Defense Secretary Gates announced that he would begin to cut the military budget in an effort to reduce the federal deficit. Some of the military cuts include amphibious vehicles (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle) and marine fighter jets (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter). Two other major cuts that came to the military budget came when Gates decided to close the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Virginia, and whittle the number of generals officers that staff the Pentagon. Together these plans make up an attempt by Gates to trim military spending by $150 billion over the next five years, even though he has stated that he is only confident that the military can only afford an $80 billion budget cut.

I agree that military budget cuts are absolutely necessary when attempting to get the federal deficit under control. However, as this article states, President Obama did authorize the use of 30,000 more American troops in Afghanistan. With that said, 1,400 more marines are to be stationed in Afghanistan over the next few months. With the major military budget cuts, how will these marines be affected? One of the most obvious impacts this budget cut will have can be seen with the cuts of the F-35  Joint Strike Fighter. I believe that unless deemed absolutely unnecessary, our government should not be cutting funds that directly influence the speed and success of the marines over in Afghanistan, especially if the President is expected to remain in the country for at least another three years.


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