The Best Defense Could be Misinterpreted as All Out War!


          Eric O’Neill’s opinion piece serves as a warning to the United States that North Korea’s nuclear war threat should not distract from the “true risk” of its cyberattack capabilities. He argues that Kim Jong Un will probably continue to develop these capabilities in response to increasing Western pressure against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. O’Neill suggests that the U.S. develop contingency plans in lieu of a North Korean cyberattack, especially an escalation policy that establishes the point at which a cyberattack is considered an act of war. He further argues that the U.S. needs to invest a lot of money into cybersecurity for critical infrastructure.  

          Overall, O’Neill presents a well-supported argument. Cybersecurity and cyberwarfare are definitely urgent concerns for the United States that require major funding. However, he did not offer much in the way of details for possible contingency plans. Furthermore, O’Neill does not address the extreme difficulty involved with developing an escalation policy. Ben Buchanan argues, in his book titled, The Cybersecurity Dilemma, that “the line between offense and defense is even blurrier in cyberspace.” This blurry line could result in defensive or unintentional intrusions by North Korea being mistaken for offensive intrusions, which could ultimately result in the declaration of cyberwar based on faulty information. Therefore, if an escalation policy is put into place, it must be carefully crafted as to minimize the risk of misinterpretation. O’Neill could have strengthened his argument by expanding on possible contingency plans, specifically by outlining an escalation policy that would be effective in today’s cyber environment.


Deadly knife attacks in Marseille, France

A knife-wielding man killed two women Sunday at the Saint-Charles train station in Marseille, France, before military police killed the suspect. Their are reasons to believe that attacks like these have been carried out on members of the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. This poses the question for Frances government, do we stay with our involvement in the Middle East or eject before attacks get worse. What should be weighed here is how successful their campaign has been in the Middle East compared to attacks on the homeland. France’s government will see that these senseless attacks on innocent people can’t be compared to what ISIS is doing to people under their control in their territories. The US-led coalition that they are apart of has shown significant progress, to back out now would be counter productive. For now, France will have to heighten security in areas that see significant traffic like at transportation hubs.


U.S Service Member Killed by Roadside Bomb in Iraq

On Sunday October 1st, one U.S Service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq while another service member was injured. Both service members were involved in the fight against ISIS. This is the 13th service member that has been killed in combat during the fight against ISIS in Iraq. Officials of the Department of Defense states that in recent days the Islamic State had been thrown into disarray by these coalition attacks from that Iraqi Security Forces that are being back by the United States. This is due to the fact that Iraq has been slowly reclaiming most of their country back from the Islamic State such as Mosul and Tal Afar.


This causes issues against the fight against ISIS. The United States is affected by this as the roadside bomb has killed and injured our own service men while Iraq is affected by this as these attacks are on their own soil. This also affects France, the UK, Australia, and other coalition countries as they struggle to not lose their own military members in the fight against the Islamic State. These coalition countries are planning on conducting air strikes which could cause ISIS to retaliate against these countries by planning attacks on their civilians.


Impact of Section 702 on NSA Surveillance

The National Security Agency conducts surveillance on more than 100,000 foreign nationals outside the US, as allowed through Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Act. The surveillance allows the NSA to legally monitor emails and phone calls of foreign nationals outside of the US. Also through this provision, authorities have helped the intelligence community identify cybersecurity threats from hostile governments, stopped malicious cyberattacks and disrupted ISIS terror plots. The statute could expire in December if it is not reauthorized by Congress. The Trump administration is pushing Congress to reauthorize the program without any changes. Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have argued that Section 702 surveillance provides authorities with the ability to protect the US from terrorism, weapons proliferation, and foreign espionage. A previously unknown example of where Section 702 surveillance allowed the NSA to identify a cybersecurity threat from a hostile foreign government and stop malicious cyberattacks against the US. Finally, the law helped identify the location of the Istanbul nightclub attacker in January 2017, which later facilitated an arrest in the case.



Attack on Mattis -Afghanistan

Last week ISIS and Taliban groups both claimed responsibility for an attempted assassination of Defense Secretary Mattis. The attack took place at the Hamid Karzai International Airport while Mattis was making a surprise visit to Kabul. Mattis had already left the airport a few hours prior. Mattis was in Afghanistan to discuss strategies of the Trump administration’s recent increase in troops(Vox).
The Taliban is said to currently control up to 40 % of the country(Vox). The attempt to assassinate Mattis by the Taliban would make sense in that they are attempting to solidify their legitimacy as an official government regime. What is even more concerning is that they have infiltrated the Afghan government security measures and were able to know of the surprise visit and launch an immediate attack. While the attack was not successful, it does demonstrate the depth of their group.


Political Gains Through Violent Crime

This week’s article detailed a prominent issue in Mexican politics. Government officials often neglect to stop violence in order to win powerful office positions, which comes in the wake of a 20 year high rate of violence crime for Mexico. It’s not necessarily because the cartels help corrupt officials to ‘win’ seats through voter fraud but more so that the political parties that are not in power will abstain from fighting crime to use it against the ruling party in hopes they get voted out of office. This mindset is in part because of Mexico’s polarized political parties and subsequently weak institutions. The ruling power at the moment is the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which doesn’t have a congressional majority and thus shares power with nine other parties. This contributes to major ideological gaps and gridlock. Furthermore, it has been found that in places where the regional government is different from the controlling national party, the rates of cartel-related murders were higher. This is because the positive political gains officials can reap from high crime rates. Many of the smaller parties point to the rising levels of violence in order to publicly shame their opponents in power for being unable to significantly lower the crime rate. This will inevitably end up hurting Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto in the long run because of the upcoming 2018 general election where almost all other parties will exploit his inability to stop the proliferation of violent crime. Since there is an ever present high rate of violent of crime in Mexico by drug cartels for the past couple decades that hasn’t subsided, I believe that the Trump Administration will remain aware to Mexico’s 20 year high violent crime rate and use it as leverage to build the wall and deport all undocumented citizens.


Venezuela’s Failing Infrastructure

As the crisis in Venezuelan wages on, the failures of the Maduro regime become glaringly obvious. The collapse of critical infrastructure in such things as hospitals and financial services are greatly affecting the nation’s security as the people suffer both economically and in the in health. This article specifically targets the medicine crisis and the “decrepit” state of hospitals throughout the country. Many doctors who have chosen to remain in the country despite incredibly low wages are putting pressure on the WHO to provide more aid to the suffering nation, but the organization has failed to even denounce the actions of the state. In a time were Venezuela is experiencing a medicine shortage and an increase in infant mortality rates, it is necessary for the WHO to step in and provide help to a population whose government has all but abandoned them. There aren’t many other options for Venezuelans other than to exit the country and put a strain on others’ resources. The Venezuelan government continues to reject the existence of a crisis, which is truly astounding in the age of social media when there is so much proof that it is happening.

Kelsey Burham

Iran Supplies Hezbollah with More Missiles

Iran stated on September 23, 2017 that it successfully tested a medium-range missile. However, both the U.S. and Israeli military think that Iran reused old footage from a ballistic missile test from January. Iran is preparing for the day the nuclear deal ends. Iran is continuously funding the Hezbollah terrorist group with accurate missiles for a future war with Israel. Hezbollah is now thought to have around 120,000 missiles and rockets in Lebanon. These missiles and rockets could be used on strategic sites and in future attacks against Israel. Accurate missiles can also allow Hezbollah to have quick launches on Israel or other places of interest. Iran funding the Hezbollah group with accurate missiles could potentially change the nature of the conflict. With the proxies, Syria would have the ability to support Hezbollah as well as open a second front against Israel. Israel may be worried about Iranian entrenchment or building hegemony in certain regions.

– Caroline

ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Resurfaces in Audio Release

ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has seemingly resurfaced after nearly one year of silence. In an almost 46 minute audio release, Baghdadi urged ISIS militants to keep fighting and not to give up even though ISIS has lost a lot of territory in both Syria and Iraq.  He stated that their mission, to remain the caliphate, has not changed and urged his fighters to target the “infidel media” and Western forces. Russia had claimed that they had possibly killed Baghdadi in a May attack targeted at a meeting of ISIS commanders in Raqqa. It is believed that Baghdadi is hiding somewhere between Raqqa in Syria and Mosul, Iraq–where anti-ISIS drone attacks are more easily detected.

As we discussed earlier this week in class, the more bureaucratic an actor is and the more public support they have, the less affected they are by decapitation. ISIS has both bureaucracy and support (depending on location) and is arguably more powerful than Al Qaeda. ISISs’ presence in Syria has been largely wiped out, but ISIS is still a formidable threat worldwide– having many fighters in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and various places in Africa. It is unlikely that if Baghdadi is ultimately killed that it will have a huge impact on ISIS as a terrorist organization, but his recent resurfacing will undoubtedly bolster the resolve of many of his fighters who may have been weakening under more serious and frequent attacks by both the U.S., Russia, Britain and Iran.



The Abe government has elected not to sign the BAN treaty that made the rounds of the U.N. General Assembly earlier last week. This was a decision glossed over by the current escalating North Korean Crises and issuing of snap elections on Monday. Tokyo has sighted two reasons for its refusal to join the treaty (which calls for all signatories to immediately end any research, development, testing, stockpiling, etc. of Nuclear Weapons). Their first is that “most U.S. allies” also made the decision to not participate and their second – the treaty was close to matching the road plan that Tokyo has for world-wide disarmament but not quite the same.

In reality, the refusal to sign the BAN treaty speaks to a growing trend of militant right-wing nationalism that the Abe government has been trying to foster for ages. Article 19 of the Japanese constitution forbids the building of any military capacity outside of a self-defense force, which the current Tokyo administration has fought against. With the current crises in their neighborhood, Abe hopes to use this period to push for a greater role for Japanese officers overseas. While the dove/pacifist wing of the government should not be counted out yet, it is likely to come under increasing fire in the coming weeks should there be no improvement in tensions. Signing the BAN would forbid Japan from building a bomb itself in the foreseeable future, should the Trump Administration and America’s promise of a nuclear umbrella be deemed useless.



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