Archive for September, 2012

China’s Missing Premier

Oddly enough, the presumed future head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dipped out of the public spotlight for an extended period this past month. The two-week absence of one Xi Jinping, the high-ranking politician currently tapped to replace Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the CCP after the upcoming Communist Party Congress (the formal date of which the party leadership has yet to announce), certainly caught the attention of China-watchers everywhere. Further fueling the gossip flames, the government’s cryptic public statements regarding Mr. Xi’s whereabouts only encouraged more speculation as to the real story and arguably highlights the dysfunction of the modern CCP’s approach to political crisis.

Most of the rumors suggested that Mr. Xi had experienced some sort of medical calamity, many of which originated from China’s plentiful micro blogs (weibo), a relatively newis  sort of social media that the censors have yet to get a handle on effectively controlling. Others suggested that the disappearance had to do with the fallout of the Bo Xilai scandal earlier this year.  The most compelling rumored explanation I’ve heard suggested that Mr. Xi’s absence was related to feuds among rival factions within the CCP vying to put their man in the top spot of the CCP this election year, with the Hu Jintao clique preferring Li Keqiang to Xi Jinping for the position of General Secretary.

Even stranger, Mr. Xi suddenly reappeared into the spotlight this Saturday at an event at the China Agricultural University in Beijing, the first time he has been seen since September 1st. Since that date, he failed to meet with Secretary of State Clinton, her Singaporean and Danish equivalents that were also visiting, and failed to attend an important Central Military Commission meeting (of which he is Vice-Chairman).

The public knows very little about what actually transpired in the last few weeks of Mr. Xi’s life.  What the public can glean from this chain of events, however, is how brittle and unresponsive the upper workings of the CCP remain even now.  The hidden mechanizations of power characteristic of communist governance would appear to be alive and well in the PRC, with the public getting very little say over whom it chooses as its leaders, and even less insight into how their political process actually works. An opaque, rigid political process is a security liability in the modern world, and with an increasingly technological and modern society, China’s government will be fighting an uphill battle and risking significant instability to maintain the political status quo in years to come.  Economic reform has done wonders for Middle Kingdom, and I’m sure the Chinese people eagerly anticipate attempting political reform as well. Let’s hope the CCP plans to give them a chance soon, for security and stability’s sake if nothing else.

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-William Kyle

U.S. Prepares to Buy Egypt’s Friendship

The Obama administration has entered talks with Egypt to help relieve $1 billion of the country’s national debts. At the same time, Egypt has been negotiating a $4.8 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund, a loan that the U.S. has announced it supports.


The previous leader of Egypt, President Mubarak, was a close American ally. Following the government upheaval during the Arab Spring, and Mubarak’s ousting, the U.S. is trying to find ways to ally itself with the new Egyptian regime, led by President Mohamed Morsi. Morsi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has surprised the Obama administration by being very open to negotiate with the U.S. This is important to the administration because Egypt is a powerful influence in the Middle East and shares a border with Israel, a hot spot for conflict. Egypt has also been receiving assistance from China. The Obama administration hopes to sway Egypt to favor the West rather than their rival to the East. And the first step to making the new Egypt a friend of the U.S. is to give them a big pile of foreign assistance funds.



Sudan’s President Visit to Cairo

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir met with Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi on Sunday to discuss renewed cooperation between the two countries.  al-Bashir’s visit to Cairo is significant for two reasons.  First, two international arrest warrants were issued on al-Bashir over his alleged role in Sudan’s ongoing conflict in its western Darfur region.  Egypt is a signatory to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but is not party to the agreement and therefore, is not bound to arrest al-Bashir.  The impact of al-Bashir’s Cairo visit for American foreign policy is that the growing ties between two large Middle Eastern nations with Islamist governments could lead to a regional power realignment against the influence of the United States.  Additionally, the visit occurs as anti-American protests continue to sweep Egypt, Sudan, and other Muslim nations.

Those anti-American protests, spurred by the release of an anti-Islam film in the United States, led to the evacuation of all non-essential staff from our embassy in Khartoum after the protests got out of hand.  To further complicate the situation, Sudan denied our request to allow more Marines into the country to further protect our embassy.  Sudan’s action is significant for U.S. foreign policy because it places the security of American personnel and property in danger as well as allowing for more opportunities for anti-American protests outside the U.S. embassy.  The Obama administration must continue to remind Sudan of its responsibilities to protect our diplomats and if the security situation is not improved, threaten retaliatory action.


Obama May Take a Stand of Cybersecurity

Last year, the Senate shut-down the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 by claiming that it violated privacy laws. Obama is now considering using an executive order to further cybersecurity guidelines. The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 would have established direct connections between private companies and the federal government. This connection would allow private companies to exchange user data for security information. Even Obama was skeptical of the privacy the Act would give, but there is an growing push for American security and data to be protected against.

The new policy would attempt to protect the physical and cyberspace world of intelligence. Also, it would have “routine collaboration and information exchange between all levels of government and [private industry].” (Koebler) In the new policy, it would not grant immunity to companies for breach of privacy laws. While a large number of people, and government members are concerned about domestic privacy breaches, there is a push for cybersecurity protection policies because of the increasing number of hacks. These data hacks shut down networks and release private information. China alone has stolen infinite amounts of intellectual property over the past year.


Ebola Outbreak in Congo!

The report highlights an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its potential to surge into major cities if not taken under control. There have already been 31 victims of the deadly virus report in the Republic and approximately 130 cases under surveillance. An official of the World Health Organization stationed in Congo has verified the severity of the breakout and its aptitude to quickly reach elsewhere.

In general, this outbreak is of no interest to the United States because of the absence of direct effect to its security. In addition, it is not The U.S’ role alone to provide the funding that could alleviate the Democratic Republic of Congo from this medical nightmare. Also, multitudes of cases like these arise elsewhere and disappear with little attention from the United States. However, considering the various definitions of security and the ability for virus to be transmitted rapidly, although this outbreak is minute in proportion, there is potential for its spread and magnification to a global threat, whether the idea is far-fetched or not. Nonetheless, the prioritization of U.S interests will keep this issue in the background as it has other more dire issues to tend to. Nonetheless, the probability of this becoming a global issue is small, but a treatment has not yet been found.


Religion, Technology, and the Problem of Posturing

In the most recent of the numerous reactions to an American-produced anti-Muslim film, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah stated at a rally in Beirut that “the US should understand that if it broadcasts the film in full it will face very dangerous repercussions around the world.” Reactions such as this, as well as more violent reactions seen in Libya last week, are the product of two very powerful forces in the Middle East today: religion and technology.  The confluence of these two creates a unique and difficult problem for security studies and foreign policy.  At the extremes, religion (or any other closely held ideology) can motivate actors (both state and non-state) to behave in ways that are difficult to predict using traditional IR theories.  Religious extremists are therefore prone to violent reaction at seemingly (to the outsider) little provokation.  Additionally, technology allows for the distribution of potentially inflammatory statements (such as this anti-Muslim film) at speeds and in ways that the world is not used to.  Combined, as has happened here, there is a significant impact on relations between states originating outside of any states apparent control.  The United States should not compromise its freedom of speech out of fear of extreme reaction abroad.  However, this film is an indication of the potentially reduced level of control modern states have over their identities and perceptions in the world.


Updating the B61 Bomb

The B61 Bomb is versatile nuclear weapon that can be carried by small air-crafts such as the F-12 and B-2 planes. The weapon can be dropped in a range of speeds from as fast as 1,000 mph to the speed limit of a suburban neighborhood and detonated mid-air or on the ground. It is an aging weapon which was developed in the 1940s during the first nuclear tests. Though it has been primarily used for parts by the Sandia National Laboratories located in New Mexico, efforts are being made to renovate the B61 to have modern digital components to expand its life expectancy and increase its reliability. The program is expected to cost as much as $10 billion according to preliminary government figures. Additionally, the renovation must by completed within five years, after which its life expectancy is due to expire. Failing to meet the deadline, which is considered likely by the Government Accountability Office and Pentagon, risks undermining the program. Though nuclear weapons are considered a relic of the Cold War by some NATO allies, the Obama administration and Congress support the costly  program to update the B61, despite current economic struggles, claiming the weapon is still relevant to national security.

Renovating outdated weapons is a costly gamble, especially with the impending expiration of its life expectancy. An effective approach would be to invest in developing more modern and efficient weapons, recycling older weapons for parts to cut costs. Another alternative could be to sell the parts of old weapons for revenue to invest in the development on newer, more reliable weapons with longer life spans. The US is currently experiencing an economic crisis and cannot afford to make risky investments worth billions of tax-payer dollars on updating weapons with expiring life expectancy. Without a strong economy, the US cannot maintain a strong military. The arguments for the B61 program are too weak to justify its costs, especially with the declining popularity of nuclear weapons.


That Last Friend

Since the fall of the Soviet Union China has been the sole backer of the North Korean regime. Currently China acts a as a guardian for North Korea, both militarily and economically. The Chinese continue to guarantee not only the state’s sovereignty but also to conduct trade with the reclusive state.
Recently a Chinese company, the Xiyang Group, verbally attacked the DPRK with claims of swindling the company over several years. The Xiyang Group went further in lambasting Begging over its ties to North Korea and has been very vocal about cutting commercial ties with the state. Naturally North Korea has not been too fond of this and launched its own attacks on the Chinese firm.
This is something which the regime has not engaged in due to the precarious situation it’s in. Up to this point the DPRK has not wished to alienate the one friend it has left as the North desperately needs China. As more reports come out it appears the DPRK is getting far more desperate to keep their economy functioning and money flowing into the country, to now lose China would be a disaster.
However, It would also appear the capitalist class and business of China may begin putting pressure on their government to cut ties with the North. If that were to happen the North Korean state would, barring a miracle, cease to exist. As it stands The North cannot provide for itself and certainly could not keep its people from rioting. It seems then China may just become the major cause of change in the peninsula.

Ryan Thompson

Credit where it is due

With all the new political ads coming out as the election nears I wanted to find an article that tied in my topic of US Intelligence agencies and the election.  I have been seeing recurring ads by Barrack Obama with mention of the killing of Bin Laden.  The ads come off to me as Barrack Obama single handedly finding and killing Bin Laden.

This article is about a book by a Navy Seal who was on the mission to capture or kill Bin Laden.  He gives much of the credit for the success of the mission to a female CIA officer.  He says that ‘Jen’ (her identity obviously withheld) was one hundred percent sure that Bin Laden was in the compound where the Seals found him.

I believe that it is important that credit is given where it is due.  Granted the President did authorize the mission but there was a great deal of work that went into killing Bin Laden started by our military and intelligence agencies on September 12, 2001 and before.



Al Qaeda Bomb Threat In Our Backyard,0,6515517.story

Friday morning the University of Texas and North Dakota State University in Fargo were evacuated after receiving phone calls regarding bomb threats. The man who called the University of Texas was described as having a Middle Eastern accent and he claimed to be a member of Al Qaeda. The caller told the school that he had placed bombs all over the campus in Texas and the bombs were scheduled to go off 90 minutes after the call. Both schools evacuated their campuses and the case is still being investigated by the authorities.

Since this is breaking news, it is uncertain whether or not the caller was actually a member of Al Qaeda, but the anniversary of 9/11 could have prompted the incident. Also, because a number of Al Qaeda’s leaders have been killed in drone attacks and the war in the Middle East has weakened it’s headquarters in Afghanistan, it could be argued that some followers of Al Qaeda’s tenets are attempting to reassert the group’s dominance. However, even though no bombs went off and no one was hurt, it cannot be denied that this was an act of terrorism.


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