Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Flight Risk over Paradise

Futenma Marine Corps Air Station

Futenma air base is one of the most dangerous of its kind in the world. It sits at the center of a populace city on Okinawa, an island prefecture separated from the rest of the Japanese mainland. Here, the U.S. military has set up shop since the Second World War, and the residence on Okinawa are not happy. The U.S. Military has been cited repeatedly for air-crashes that threaten Futenma’s residences as well as the dumping of military-grade chemicals and other materials which has harmed the island’s ecosystem. While plans have been underway for years to relocate the base (and politicians have made it part of their re-election platform), actual construction has been slow going. This is because the proposed alternative to Futenma airbase sits on a coral habitat and the run-ways proposed would completely destroy the aquatic environment. Further, Japan and the United States have squabbled over who will pay for the relocation as well as whether a relocation is even necessary.

Yesterday’s helicopter crash near Higashi village on Okinawa only proves the point that the base needs to be moved. Futenma airbase is a risk neither U.S. airmen nor the residence of the city should be willing, or have to, take. Being in the military is dangerous, it’s part of the job, but that does not mean that civilians in a peace-time environment should also have to bear that risk. Especially not a city of them.  Each time one of these helicopters crash (which, this crash is not the first but instead part of a long string of military accidents), the Japanese government must deal with not only another potential dead American service personnel but also civilian casualties. If it is a U.S. goal to continue a mission of friendship with the Japanese nation, then it is pertinent that it listen and respect the opinions of the people on Okinawa.

If you would like to read more about the crash:






Mattis Silent on Total Troop Numbers
General Mattis told congress on Tuesday that the US will be sending the 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to provide advice and call in air and artillery strikes on insurgencies. He asserted that Afghan forces will continue to take the lead in fighting. Estimates of 3,000 are being offered but actual numbers are being held back. Congress is insisting that the details must be released as well as a clearer policy for Afghanistan. Mattis has refused to give details as this would benefit the Taliban. “We’ll give approximate numbers,” Mattis said. “We’re not hiding this. But I’d rather not say the specific capabilities, the specific numbers.” I understand the frustration of congress members for wanting a clear strategy laid out by the administration, however, Mattis is right in guarding details. I don’t agree with insistence of congress to know actual troop numbers. I don’t believe there is relevance at this point in the war in Afghanistan. When we had 100,000 troops stationed there we made minimal progress in addressing the Taliban. I even suggest that progress that was made was due to the Taliban pulling back into sanctuary locations to regroup and wait out the US. I don’t believe that troop numbers are going to bring an end to the violence in Afghanistan.

Turkey Working with Russia and Iran to Form Deescalation Zones in Syria

In an effort to rid key areas in Syria of Al Qaeda forces, Turkey (and the FSA) is working with Russia and Iran to establish four deescalation zones in Syria. Turkey hopes to rid the Idlib province of the AlQaeda Hay’et Tahir al Sham forces. This is an area of great importance to Turkey as is lies along their border with Syria.

Analysis: From a security standpoint it is important to understand that Turkey typically does not share good relations with either Syria, Russia or Iran; however, all parties have agreed to cooperate in order to set up these “deescalation” zones throughout Syria. In the last two years, with the U.S. backing the Kurds, whom the Turks have long opposed, the Turks are now willing to be more cooperative with Russia because Russia has become a power-player in Syria that Turkey cannot ignore. Turkey has an interest in maintaining safety along its borders and Al-Asaad has an interest in ridding Syria of this Al-Qaeda affiliate–even if it pushes the Hay’et Tahir al-Sham into Turkey (thus out of Syria). Turkey is allied with the U.S. and therefore the U.S. will do what it can to help Turkey–short of setting up prolonged forces in the area. Russia and Iran continue to focus much of their forces and attention on trying to gain and maintain control over the resource-rich area of Deir al-Zour.


US-Thailand Appear to Align on SCS Policy

Summary: On October 3rd, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who seized control of the Thai government in 2014 as head of a military junta, visited the White House and met with President Trump. The two leaders discussed many topics, and issued a joint statement indicating their support for peace and stability in in the South China Sea, and called for freedom of navigation in keeping with UNCLOS. They also called for cooperative efforts in the issue, and on the recent issues with North Korea, indicated concern and called for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.

Analysis: Despite the displeased reaction of the US government over Chan-O-Cha’s rise to power at the time, and the number of incidents that have occurred in Thailand as a result, President Trump seems to believe that maintaining Thailand in the American camp is worth any criticism his open support for that regime may bring. China and the US have both been trying to recruit allies for their respective positions on the SCS dispute, so this is perhaps unsurprising, especially with Trump’s recent reaffirmation of an ‘America First’ foreign policy at the UN. Whether this policy will make a difference in the dispute, or significantly impact the reputation of the US remains to be seen.


Venezuela to become a Disconnected Nation

Due to the large crisis occurring in the nation, Venezuela is becoming incredibly disconnected from the rest of the world in multiple ways.  Amid its security concerns and political unrest, numerous airlines have terminated flights to the country. According to the International Airlines Association, there are only six airlines that will continue to travel to the country, however they offer very few flights. These airlines have been citing the security of the nation as a threat for years. Maduro’s regime continues to receive global condemnation and each week it seems more and more likely that the nation will fall into a civil war. The Foreign Office has strongly advised against any travel to Venezuela unless it is absolutely essential and warns travelers of the high levels of violent crimes occurring there. Venezuela isn’t only disconnected by the airlines though. The nation has lost all of its international and domestic integrity, and has lost many of its major economic relations. It’s amazing that the government is still maintaining control of the nation, however it seems unlikely that it will be able to withstand such isolated and tumultuous conditions.



Iraqi Citizens Return to Mosul Only to Find Their Homes Destroyed

A woman walks passed a destroyed university building in Hamam al-Alil, Mosul, in September 2017

The Islamic State has been expelled from Mosul after a prolonged siege. Citizens who were involved in the exodus are slowly starting to return to their homes, but sadly, have found that their homes have been destroyed. Children have also become separated from their parents and ID papers have been lost. Iraq’s second largest city is extremely low on food and unable to rebuild as there is no money available.

This is a problem directly for Iraqis as they have no money, food, shelter or aid to help them to get back up on their feet again. Although ISIS is no longer in this area, they have left them with absolutely nothing, and what looks like, no chance to rebuild anytime soon. The United States, being a superpower, has an obligation to step in and provide immediate aid to Iraqis. Organizations such as the United Nations also need to be getting involved with aiding Iraq. Countries and organizations that have the means to provide aid and support must act immediately. This will allow ISIS to stay out of these areas and help Iraq citizens rebuild their homes.


Bomb attempt in chic Paris neighborhood

Five suspects are facing terrorism charges while counterterrorism prosecutors open an investigation. The explosive device was detected and deactivated when authorities swept the building that the suspects were housed in. ISIS claimed the bombing suspects as being apart of their organization along with the idea for the attack. The only analysis I can offer on this incident is that what France’s counterterrorism authorities have in place for security protocol worked flawlessly. The authorities were able to stop a potential terrorist act before the suspects could even carry it out. Due to the suspicions of a concerned neighbor, authorities were able to check a situation out and see if it was credible or not. As long as this relationship can continue between the citizens of France and its police, then future terrorists will have a disadvantage when it comes to planning attacks in local areas like this. French officials should use this as an example for how all citizens should trust their instincts and inform the proper authorities as soon as possible. Ensuring that the citizens are the best defense against potential terrorist attacks when they stay vigilant in their daily lives.


Perpetual War on Terror

I thought that I should address the elephant in the room in regards to defense spending: the War on Terror. I located a convenient article from The Balance to provide a quick rundown of the general timeline and finances. George W. Bush initiated the WoT in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks. He specified that the WoT would continue until the world was rid of terrorist groups. That year the U.S. initiated the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, also targeting the Taliban for abetting him. And, in 2003, we invaded Iraq and dismantled Saddam Hussein’s regime. The efforts continued through Obama’s presidency and evolved into a fight against ISIS and affiliates. Now, after a slight die-down of spending and action in the late years of Obama, Trump has added fuel (troop commitments & spending) to the proverbial fire with Operations Freedom Sentinel (Afghanistan) and Inherent Resolve (Iraq and Syria). Until now, the WoT has cost the U.S. more than $2,100,000,000,000.

Of course the Iraq War and Afghan War have been litigated countless times and probably will be litigated many more. But, it seems we have come to accept the War on Terror without much question. Even in concept, the WoT is problematic. How can we declare war on a broad category of ideology-based actions? It is good to know about imminent threats and to act defensively to mitigate them. But, declaring war on ideological categories is akin to declaring war on physics. How can one destroy gravity or inertia? It would be useful to ask oneself, are we safer in the world now than we were before we spent $2.1 trillion? And besides the monetary cost, what else have we and the rest of the world paid in this quest? Is this quest worth relinquishing due process (warrantless wiretapping and drone strikes against American citizens without trials)? How many people could have lived had we not invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan? Would we be safer and more prosperous had we dedicated funds and efforts to addressing the root causes, the conditions in which terrorism breeds? The country would benefit greatly if we began evaluating our policies and policymakers beforehand instead of following them unquestionably. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if we accept policies without skepticism of their intent and efficacy, we stand to lose a lot of life, liberty, and money.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!



          Australia launched its first International Cyber Engagement Strategy this month, according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The Australian government is making it clear that international norms must be adhered to in cyberspace or there will be consequences that may involve the military. The Australian Signals Directorate has received approval to use its offensive cyber capabilities against “organised offshore cyber criminal networks.” The Cyber Engagement Strategy stresses that Australia’s offensive cyber capabilities are in agreement with international laws and backed by the Australian Defence Force.

          Bishop also urges other states to commit to working within international law regarding cyber activity. Australia’s strategy encourages states to be more straightforward regarding the military use of offensive cyber capabilities and acknowledge that cyberspace military actions are governed just as military actions in the physical domains. Australia aims to develop a system for cooperation between allies for lawful response to “unacceptable behaviour in cyberspace”. The goal is to combine the cyber security skills of many countries, the private sector, civil society, and researchers through cyber policy and cyber security discussions.

          The United States and other key state actors should react to Australia’s efforts in much the same way as they have been, by continuing discussions with each other about cyber policy and cyber security. Each country is vulnerable to cyber attacks that could lead to war and given the relatively new nature of cyber security, international norms provide a strong basis upon which policies should be built.  It is also beneficial to combine cyber security skills with one’s allies in order to beef up offensive cyber capabilities. President Trump has cybersecurity high on his agenda, but the process of developing the best possible strategy is complex and time-consuming. Hopefully, the end product will be effective at providing the appropriate guidance for future actions of the U.S. in cyberspace.


NATO troops say Russia is hacking their smartphones

Alex Ward reports for Vox News on recent Russian intrigue against NATO forces. Citing the original concern from the Wall Street Journal, Ward reports that on October 4 US Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux had an attempt to hack his phone from a Russian IP address. Six other American NATO soldiers also reported attempts on their devices, so did an Estonian soldier. Lt. Col. L’Heureux was in a Polish NATO base at the time and says the Russians were trying to geolocate him. I concur with Mr. Ward’s understanding of the Russian hacks insofar as he writes that these hackings are responses to perceived NATO/Western aggression toward the Russian people. This recent development, however, has reminded me of the increasing role of cyberspace in warfare. During discussion in the previous weeks, the class mentioned scenarios in which cyber attacks would be preemptive of a kinetic, physical attack. A paralytic of sorts on a rival’s communications in this NATO incident. Fortunately, this was no such tactic but it can be easily hypothesized.


–E. Hicks

Return top