Archive for October, 2012

The Security Council demands specificity for ECOWAS’ intervention plans in Mali

Recent talks of the United Nations Security Council sending troops have been lingering in the affairs concerning the crisis going on in Mali. ECOWAS, the African Union, and the Malian government have requested that the Security Council provide international troops to support Malian forces fighting to regain the Northern territory of the country. The article highlights the reasons for the delayed action. The Security Council demands clear plans from the participants to ensure that the intervention will adhere to U.N protocol for human rights and that it is used to maximize efficacy in defeating the insurgent groups in the north.

The United States has decided to back ECOWAS and the African Union in their intervention plans and has halted aid to Mali, except in humanitarian form. Although multilateral intervention is slow to take shape, it is in the process of fruition nonetheless and this is the best position for the United States to take. Hopefully the intervention will result in re-establishing a permanent government in the South of Mali as soon as possible and will dissuade the nascent Islamist threat in the region.



Darfur Fighting Presents New Challenges for U.S.


Conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region is rearing its ugly head again, with the potential to destabilize that nation and the region.  Peacekeepers are saying that that attempts at another peace deal are growing less likely as violence between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels increases.

The violence is surprising because last July, with Qatari assistance, a peace deal was reached between an umbrella group of small Darfur rebel factions, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), and the Sudanese government.  The peace deal, however, is more significant because the main rebel groups in Darfur refused to sign on and implementation has not kept to the agreed timeline.  Additionally, the violence continues to grow larger in light of a massive United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) currently deployed to the region to keep the peace.

This violence is significant for American foreign policy because if fighting and instability increases beyond Darfur, it could potentially destabilize Sudan, South Sudan, and the entire region.  Nations surrounding Sudan and South Sudan have historically suffered from political instability and it is not in the interests of the United States for another conflict to erupt in this part of Africa.  While the Darfur conflict does not present an imminent danger to American national interests, if left to fester, it could potential hurt our interests somehow.

Another consideration is that South Sudan’s former guerrilla group turned dominant political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, has had ties to Darfur rebels during Sudan’s two civil wars.  If South Sudan were to join sides with any of the Darfur rebels, this would undoubtedly lead to full scale war again, cause massive loss of human life, and economic destruction for both sides.  Looking at the potential consequences of this conflict, the United States must make it clear to South Sudan that any such relationship will not bring about meaningful change for either party.


EU to Withhold Funds from Afghanistan

The European Union announced this week that it will be withholding millions of Euros of aid that was intended to be used in Afghanistan. The EU’s decision is based off the fact that Afghanistan has failed to reform several parts of its government, most notably its judiciary system. According to the article, the sum of money being withheld is not extremely significant considering the billions of aid dollars currently being funneled into Afghanistan; what is significant is the possibility of aid being used as leverage in the country in the future.

By being able to use their aid money as leverage, the West gains another way to control affairs in struggling countries. In Afghanistan, the West is currently trying to remove troops, so knowing that they can retain indirect control through how they spend or don’t spend their aid money is a reassuring thought. It is also a dangerous practice that could build anti-Western tensions based on how the EU and the US judge how their money should be spent – they must pay special note to the difference between what is necessary for a country to develop, such as a fair justice system, and what is a Eurocentric ideal, such as universal suffrage.


US Special Forces Deployed to Turkey

The United States has deployed about 150 Army Special Forces troops to the Turkey Syria boarder.  Their main function is information gathering and contingency planning at this point.

Syria’s civil conflict has been spilling over into Turkey more and more since its beginning.  Turkey has taken on an estimated 200,000 Syrian refugees which has put stress on Turkey and its ability to handle the situation.  Also, artillery strikes from Syria have landed in Turkey killing civilians. Along with some air conflicts between the two nations, tensions are rising.

Another aspect that raises the stakes of the civil war spilling out of Syria is Syria’s chemical weapons.   Although Assad has said he will not use chemical weapons on Syrians, he has not ruled out using them on foreign forces trying to intervene. This poses a serious threat for the United States if we were to become involved in either a humanitarian effort or an effort which involved force.



Obama blocks China from Wind Farms

Last week, in a rare presidential order, President Obama blocked a Chinese company from four wind farms in northern Oregon near a navy base. Citing national security concerns, Obama is the first President to exercise this power in 22 years. Ralls Corporation has four wind farm projects near where the United States flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions. The article notes that Obama’s decision comes weeks before the election, after Romney has delivered a stream of criticism about Obama’s weakness when it comes to cracking down on China.

While I think this decision did have political motives, national security is playing a role. The economic relationship between the U.S. and China is becoming increasingly tense  as China becomes a greater world power. The US currently has a near-monopoly on unmanned drones, but other countries, China in particular, are looking into developing their own. The US has a strong interest in keeping China from accessing such technology as tensions mount. The article also mentions that there are wind farms in the area operated by Danish and German countries, and the administration has left them alone.


What Does Romney Mean for US-Israel Relations

Over the past few weeks, Mitt Romney’s statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been contradictory.  A few weeks ago, a secretly recorded video was released showing Romney saying that a “pathway to peace was unthinkable.”  In other statements he has said that all the US can do is “kick the can down the road;” attempts can be made for temporary stability, but permanent peace is impossible.  Today, however, in a speech at VMI, Romney said “Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.”  Whether or not this indicates an actual shift in Romney’s policy towards the conflict or if it is simply a political response to the leaked video is as yet unclear.  However, it is clear that Romney is either conflicted on the issue or his private thoughts differ from his public statements.

Considering the state of President Obama’s relationship with PM Netanyahu has been over their differing ideas concerning, among other things, West Bank settlements and Iran’s nuclear program, one wonders how Israel views the prospect of a President Romney.  For one thing, it is not clear currently to what extent he agrees with either Obama or Netanyahu.  Nor is it obvious how important he sees America’s relationship with Israel.  Even if Israel did feel it could know Romney’s positions with confidence, could they be confident that Romney’s administration would faithfully act on its commitments to Israel if it became politically unpopular?


Asia Hackers May Not Be the Ones to Fear

China is commonly pegged as the biggest threat to American cyber security, or any country for that matter. However, a recent report claims that Eastern European hackers are superior to East Asian hackers. Studies find that Eastern European hackers are more organized and sophisticated in their malware construction. Whereas many East Asian hackers care about speed and quickly producing a product, Eastern Europeans individualize their products and focus on secrecy and anti-debugging techniques.

East Asian hackers are typified as be hired by groups who want their skills. In contrast, Eastern European hackers tend to work alone or in small groups for profit that develop products for their own use. It is most likely because of this that Eastern European hackers spend more time developing a more unique product as well as various systems so that they have total control over the attack.

China is currently seen as a bigger cyber threat to the U.S. because their focus is to steal intelligence information. Eastern European hackers are not as well-known for the time being. The danger of the Eastern European hackers, however, is that they develop far more secure and intricate malware systems. Since they are usually independently run, more consideration goes into being caught and therefore protecting their systems.


The Liaoning – China’s New Aircraft Carrier

On September 25, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ceremonially inducted the Liaoning into China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing fleet in the northeastern port of Dalian. Named for the province it was refitted in, the originally Soviet-built Liaoning was bought by the Chinese from Ukraine in the late 1990s, ostensibly to serve as a floating casino and amusement park in China’s gambling metropolis, Macau.

In reality, the ship has been undergoing refitting operations in Dalian since 2005 to make the Liaoning a suitable prototype for the probable future Chinese carrier fleet. While the Chinese have much to learn still about how to operationalize and integrate the aircraft carrier into naval operations (e.g. they have yet to learn how to land airplanes on it), the entrance of the Liaoning into service is a watershed moment in itself. The PRC’s aircraft carrier ambitions have been made clear, and official statements applying the Liaoning’s projection capabilities directly to China’s pending maritime territorial disputes suggests how China’s military leadership intend to leverage this new formidable platform. Rather than promoting ‘world peace’ and ‘regional stability’ as one Chinese official suggested, the mere presence of the Liaoning in China’s arsenal and the future PLAN it symbolizes may serve to increase the bellicosity of the Chinese military and China may be even more assertive towards their smaller Pacific neighbors.

China’s burgeoning navy poses a challenge to the primacy of the U.S. Navy In the Pacific. The commissioning of the Liaoning is only the latest sign of this. An arms race in the Pacific threatens the security of both the United States and the PRC, along with all the countries stuck between the two camps. While China may be within its right as a great power to develop advanced military capability, this also entails great responsibility – how China chooses to leverage its newfound power will determine whether this challenge poses a threat or an opportunity for the United States.


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-William Kyle

Border between Sudan and S. Sudan to be reopened

The rocky relationship between Sudan and South Sudan seems to be on the upswing as Sudanese state media is reporting that all border crossings with the south will reopen in light of the agreements signed in Addis Ababa between the two nations.   Sudanese Presdient Omar al-Bashir announced the decision to open all avenues of transportation after consultation with Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ali Ahmad Karti, and Sudan’s ambassador to South Sudan, Mutrif Sadiq with the intent to help relations between the two countries.  The decision to reopen all transportation links is the result of a security and cooperation deal signed between Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on September 27 that is part of a long road to normalizing relations.  The deal allows for oil exports from the south to resume, a compensation package for Khartoum to make up for its lost revenue, and the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone.

This announcement is a positive sign that Sudan and South Sudan are moving towards normalizing relations.  Removing all transportation barriers between both nations will produce positive benefits for both, especially for South Sudan, who is still dependent on many imported goods from Sudan.  Additionally, this agreement allows for South Sudanese citizens currently working in Sudan to legally return home.  Bashir’s announcement, however, did not make an steps toward solving the question over the disputed Abyei region.  While both states are committed to a referendum in Abyei, where residents would choose to stay with Sudan or join the south, a recent meeting between Bashir and Mikhail Margelov, Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for cooperation with African countries suggests otherwise.  Margelov in a report released after his visit to Khartoum quoted Bashir as saying that he agrees to partition Abyei between the Dinka Ngok and Misseriya peoples.

The opening of the border is probably the result of two different factors.  First, after signing their agreement in late September, both nations are beginning to see that it is in their interests to normalize relations.  Second, both see that new conflict is not an option and is not acceptable to all international actors.  The United States must continue to support these actions and provide whatever assistance it can to further warm better relations between the two countries.


Troops and Weapons before Civilian Workers in Sequestration

With looming anxiety over sequestration budget cuts within the military, the Department of Defense is evaluating and prioritizing programs. Troops and weapons procurement have been designated at the most importance aspects to protect from sequestration, with considerations of putting civilian workers as a means to reduce spending. Even weapons contractors are nervous about the implication of the sequestration on their contracts, and are also considering laying off workers themselves. The Obama administration has assured contractors, such as Lockheed Martin and BEA Systems, that layoffs are not necessary, most likely with thoughts about the upcoming election and the impact that mass job losses would have on his prospects for reelection.

Weapons procurement should not be as high as a priority as preserving jobs. Layoffs can hurt the economy by putting more people out of work, which would be counterproductive in improving the economy and reducing the deficit. The US has the most advanced and sophisticated weapons arsenal in the world and no other country can compete. Protecting funds designated for troops and strategic operations is justified in its own right. However, civilian workers deserve more consideration and immunity from budget cuts. Money has already been wasted developing weapons that have been deemed unreliable (refer to the Littoral Combat Ship article, which is referred to as “staggeringly overpriced and chronically unreliable”)

The Littoral Combat Ships costs $40 billion at $700 million a piece and is considered a failed investment. The military needs to develop prototypes before investing millions and billions on defective products before it chooses to layoff civilian workers. If the first model does not pass the test as a dependable and accurate asset, then it is not responsible to purchase more.

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