Archive for October, 2012

Nap Time, and a Cybersecurity Lesson?

The Department of Homeland Defense (DHS) is creating a new education program that is aimed at teaching cyber security science and techniques. The program is intended to start in Kindergarden classrooms and continue up through the collegiate levels of education. The DHS wants to increase focuses on technology, science, engineering, mathematics, reading, and writing. The goal is to train a new generation of cyber experts and to further develop the current generation.

The NHS has also tried to establish a group called the National Information Sharing Organization (NISO). There goal would essentially be to create a middle man contact point between the government and American businesses so that both entities can share possible cyber threats and cooperate more easily. The concern with this idea is that U.S. businesses will have little regulation on what information they get to share and that the government would then have access to large amounts of private citizen information that could be used outside the context of cybersecurity.

The NISO debate aside, is Kindergarden too young to try to start cyber security education? The answer is unclear, but in today’s society the cyber threat is growing. It is becoming more dangerous and developing faster and faster. Many current policy members are a generation behind and struggling to keep up with current technologies and cyber security information. It is important to highlight the importance of cyber security and educate the upcoming generations as best as possible.



Never Back Down… or can We?

The question the author poses in this article is an important and constantly evaluated concept that must be analyzed in the field of U.S security and conflict studies: is Al-Qaeda still a threat to United States national security? He begins by providing the answers that the president and the runner-up of the upcoming elections gave in their foreign policy debates. These are fairly contradicting answers to an important question. He then broaches that the ideological power of the organization has dimmed down and that the new arising groups that claim similar objectives as Al-Qaeda are actually more concerned with local crusades for theocracies than American-targeted terrorism. The author ends the article, however, with a quote from a Princeton university professor who disclaims the end of the movement despite the U.S’ success in weakening the leadership. The answer to the question is indeed very ambiguous because motives of the jihadists can always alter and the “mystique” factor that Al-Qaeda holds as the small group that succeeded in somewhat destabilizing an empire state is an appealing notion for global recognition. The author corroborates the appeal of this factor, therefore insinuating the threat that even these groups can pose to the U.S despite their said local agendas and his own analysis of their distaste for such a cause. Is the United States really ready to back down from its Al-Qaeda influenced counterterrorist fighting stance?


Algeria: The Linchpin in Securing Mali?

In a recent diplomatic trip to Algeria, secretary of State Hilary Clinton lobbied Algerian authorities to support International military intervention in Mali, a nation beset by terrorist violence from Al Qaeda cells. The Algerian Government has taken a course of inaction and prudence over hasty involvement in Mali. Algerian sluggishness in addressing the security issue is preventing International peacekeeping operations from developing. Any International intervention in Mali in the near future would most likely require the cooperation of Algeria, since it’s border would provide the best access to the violence in Northern Mali. Along with the US, France (Mali’s former colonial power) and the Economic Community of West African States have shown willingness to provide military support for an intervention. Algeria has agreed to consider facilitating intervention, and will continue to hold talks with it’s neighbors and the US.

Increased US focus on North Africa comes in the wake of increased Al Qaeda operations in the region. It is now known that Islamist forces conducted a brazen, coordinated attack on the US embassy in Libya. There is evidence that the group responsible is “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” – a relatively new wing of Al Qaeda. Anarchy in Mali could provide a haven for Al Qaeda to conduct attacks in an already volatile North Africa.  This is especially true since former Al Qaeda safe havens – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen – have come under increased intelligence scrutiny and drone attacks with the Obama administration’s new proactive defense doctrine. It is clear that the current administration understands the importance of a secure Mali – potentially the next battleground between Al Qaeda and the US.

– Daniel

Iran Reduces Funding to Hezbollah

Israel’s fears about an attack from Hezbollah linger even after a report that shows Iran’s aid to the powerful Shiite Muslim group have declined in the recent years. Hezbollah is a group that has an open hatred of the Israeli state and is committed to its destruction. In recent years, Iran has sent aid to the group, which acts as Iran’s anti-Israeli voice within the country. It is thought that Iran’s decline in aid is directly related to sanctions placed on the country by the West after their lack of cooperation with international nuclear agreements.


A diminution of funding to Hezbollah is a positive indirect result of sanctions from the West. We tend to think of foreign aid as being purely philanthropic and having no bias behind it but in reality aid is very often based on the donor country’s political drives. Unfortunately, in the case of Hezbollah, there are many donors funding the terrorist organization, so a lack of money from Iran reduces Hezbollah’s funds but doesn’t disable the group.



Security in the Form of Beef and Tomatoes

Brian Fung posted a little blurb this week in the Atlantic on how stability in Afghanistan includes a healthy economy and “the revival of business.” He noted that one commander stopped measuring progress based on the stemming of violence, and instead began to take notice of the sales of highly perishable foodstuffs, such as beef and tomatoes.

I liked this different take on Afghanistan’s national security because I think the focus tends to be on curbing violence rather than economic stability. A stable, flourishing economy is essential for political stability and national security and vice versa. While the U.S. should continue to keep violence at bay in Afghanistan, it should also focus on economic restoration. A thriving business sector encourages political stability and allows the Afghans to experience a halfway normal life.


Syrian Rebellion and Chinese Separatism

According to state officials in China, proven links exist between Syria’s ongoing rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and separatist organizations in China’s northwestern frontier province of Xinjiang. The government alleges that since May of this year elements of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist group actively agitating for Xinjiang’s independence from Beijing, have been participating in anti-regime activities in Syria and making links with other international terror groups such as Al Qaeda. In addition to condemning the proliferation of insurrection groups and transnational terror, the Beijing government raised the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC, a paramilitary group that tackles/deters unrest in a few key cities of Xinjiang) up a few echelons to a deputy corps command, giving it a hotline to Beijing to facilitate speedy response. This is on top of the government’s ‘strike hard’ campaign launched earlier this year against separatist groups and their increasing presence on the internet.

Xinjiang is home to a large population of China’s ethnic minorities, many of them Muslim. In 2009, violence broke out between members of the restive Uighur minority and the majority Han communities, killing around 200. Ever since this episode, Beijing has been seen as especially jumpy over the status of its western frontier, something that the regime-toppling Arab Spring wave of unrest has exacerbated. This is a large factor in China’s decision to remain intransigent in the U.N. Security Council’s attempts to intervene in the Syrian conflict, as Beijing hopes to help another regime with legitimacy problems weather the storm while reducing the pressure at home in the process. However, the seemingly endless conflict in Syria now threatens to magnify the security threat even further than mere political protests as the unrest has become increasingly militarized and transnational. Should Syria become something of a jihadist melting pot in the mold of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the generation of new sophisticated transnational terror groups is a growing possibility, something the Chinese government is right to fear (if for the wrongheaded reason that it will make the subjugation of Xinjiang that much harder). This issue affects not just Chinese security, but the international community’s, as groups rooted in the Afghan insurgency against the U.S.S.R. (e.g. Al Qaeda) prove. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Syrian conflict will likely have security implications long after its conclusion and that reach far beyond its borders.



Related Story:


-William Kyle

Sudan Blames Israel for Airstrike

Last week, the Yarmouk military compex south of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum was attacked and Sudan immediately blamed Israel for using the airstrike to attack its main ammunition and small arms factory.  A U.S. monitoring group, the Satellite Sentiel Project, said that its military experts were able to confirm that craters caused by air-delivered munitions were evident at the weapons facility.  Despite the allegations by the Sudanese, the Israelis neither confirmed or denied that they had any part in the Sudanese raid, but witnesses said the attack was carried out by piloted fighter jets, as opposed to the unmanned drones previously used by Israel on other Sudanese targets.

Assuming that the Israelis were responsible for this attack, they have multiple motivations for it.  First, intelligence exists that Sudan is used as an arms-smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via Egypt.  Second, many experts see the Sudanese airstrike as part of Israel’s proxy war against Islamic militants across its neighbors, particularly Egypt.  Rather than directly confront these groups and deal with the international consequences, Israel has reasons for such a policy.  Another explanation is that if Israel was responsible for this attack, then it can be interpreted as a warning to Iran.  Sudan and Iran have over the years grown closer as international pressure has grown against both countries. This attack might be one way of Israel making it clear to Iran that it will no longer tolerate its expansion throughout the region.

This attack has multiple impacts for US foreign policy.  The US, of course, will stand with Israel to protect their and our interests across the Middle East.  This attack, however, has the potential to create more conflict in the region, which is not what the US needs right now.  It is in our foreign policy interests to keep Iran in check, but also to ensure that Israel does not provoke any future conflict in the Middle East.  If the latter were to happen, the consequences would be grave for the US and for the entire region.




Al-Zawahri: Method to His Madness

This article is about Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahri’s new video, which came out two days ago. In the video, he urged his followers to increase kidnappings of Westerners, promoted his support of the Syrian uprising, and called for the instillation of Sharia Law in Egypt. Al-Zawahri believes that continued kidnappings of foreign nationals will be instrumental in freeing terrorist suspects and criminals in U.S. prisons and combating Western powers in the Middle East. He named one prisoner in particular that he wanted freed, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Known as “the Blind Sheik”, Abdel-Rahman was imprisoned after investigations proved that he assisted in the planning of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

This article displays a political strategy for Al-Qaeda. Essentially, Al-Zawahri wants to severely weaken and completely eradicate Western forces in the Middle East. He wants to impose Sharia Law in Egypt as a means of “cleansing” the constitution and establish a strict Islamic society, devoid of foreign influence. He is also rallying for support of the Syrian conflict because he believes that Western powers are allowing Assad to carry out massive killings. Al-Zawahri’s emphasis on kidnappings as a means of weakening foreign influence, although not new, displays the flexibility and extent of Al-Qaeda’s operations. Finally, this article also shows that Al-Qaeda is becoming more concerned about the disintegration of its membership. Numerous leaders have either been killed by drone strikes or imprisoned by the U.S., greatly crippling the group’s power base. Al-Zawahri’s emphasis on kidnapping foreigners to trade for terrorist prisoners in the U.S. such as Abdel-Rahman is evidence of this concern.

From this article, it could also be deduced that we might see a decline in air terrorism and bomb threats as the emphasis on the kidnappings of foreigners in the region grows.


Balloons and Reaction

Recently the DPRK threatened to respond to the minor provocation of propaganda balloons from the South with a “merciless military strike.” To which I am extremely thankful as there was a real fear that the North was dialing back the crazy. The South has backed down and banned the balloons but the event has made the point that the north is still willing to threaten military action over minor provocations.
This event has shown North Korea is still willing to respond to perceived threats but it means much more. The North’s reaction to these balloons shows that it is concerned for its internal security as these balloons were to carry propaganda leaflets. At a time when the DPRK’s economy is laughable at best the state is trying its hardest to prevent anything that can spur discontent. This means the harsh threats of retaliation by the DPRK show that they are getting increastingly desperate to maintain isolation and control.
I would predict that the North is going to start drastically increasing border incidents and proclamations to maintain some feeling of control. Unless the situation in the North improves they will become an increasingly unhinged and desperate state, a threat the US and other nations in the region will have to deal with.

Ryan Thompson

Also for anyone interested Kim Jong-Un’s supposed wife is missing. Its not really worthy of a blog post but here’s an article:

Romney’s Intentions to Boost Defense

The article begins by assessing Romney’s plans to increase Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines from two a year to three a year. However, the cost of building these submarines ranges at around $2 billion per submarine. Romney’s campaign accuses the Obama administration of being soft in foreign policy and of weakening the military. The Republican presidential hopeful promises to strengthen the US’s military if elected, which includes expansion in military development and increasing defense spending. One of his primary concerns is, what he believes, is a decline in the US naval power, which has become increasingly relevant with the rise of tension in Asia. Critics of Romney’s plans for military expansion are skeptical because they believe he emphasizes quantity over quality, more ships instead of better ships. Additionally, his general resistance in raising taxes indicates he would increase federal budget cuts to afford boosting defense capabilities.

Romney’s intentions to revitalize the military is reminiscent of Reagan during the Cold War, during which military build-up was used to flex muscles at international threats as a means of deterrence. However, the US no longer has a genuine military competitor and is the strongest and most capable force in the world. Building-up the military might provoke other countries, like China or Iran, to react similarly if they think the US may pose a threat to their interests. -WD

Return top