Archive for December, 2012

AU Pushes UN for Mali force

The African Union is calling for the United Nations to allow for international authorization of an intervention force to Mali, where Islamist groups have control of the northern territory.  Regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said that it is ready to deploy 3,300 troops to fight against armed Islamist groups entrenched in the north.  Their deployment, however, must receive UN approval, which has yet to happen.  As a result, many African heads of state and regional organizations have called on the UN to allow for the formation of an intervention force and want the entire international community to participate in a force’s development.  Among ECOWAS members and other African countries, the idea concerning Mali is that the Malians need to make it clear what support they expect from Africa and what is expected from the United States and other European countries.

The United States has until this point made it clear that no U.S. soldiers are going to be sent to Mali to fight extremists.  While the Obama administration has offered to provide assistance of any kind, either military aid or training, to any force that does intervene in Mali, no specifics exist as of yet.  Fighting in Mali does hold the potential that if an intervention force does fail, the United States might be requested or outright required to become more involved due to the very real security threat terrorist groups play in this part of Africa.


Netanyahu Undeterred by UN Decision

Last week, the UNGA voted to upgrade Palestine from “entity” to “non-member state,” thus conferring legitimacy to Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Israeli government has denounced the move, saying that it is a deviation from the Oslo Accords and that peace can and will only come through negotiation.  Despite this recognition, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized more Israeli settlements in the West Bank, aggravating one of the main sources of contention between Israel and Palestine.  Netanyahu’s decision illustrates two important aspects of Palestine’s recognition.  First, from the Palestinian perspective, the vote, while historic, will not significantly change the facts on the ground.  Israel still controls much of the West Bank.  Though they are united in name, Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Israel still have very different views on the future of Palestine (a difference that is exacerbated, not resolved, by this vote and last month’s Israel-Gaza conflict).  Second, the Israelis, especially the current government, see this vote as an affront to the peace process rather than progress.  Under the Oslo Accords, a lasting peace and the resolution of territorial and refugee disputes was only to come through bilateral negotiations   This international imposition, from the Israeli perspective, is a deviation from this plan.  Even the secular and less violent Fatah regime is finding alternate paths to statehood.  To conservative Israelis, such as Netanyahu, the Oslo process may be dead.  Thus, expanding settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem is a logical step, as Netanyahu sees these settlements as a security issue as well as a religious one.  Netanyahu is facing criticism from his opposition parties concerning this radical reaction, which they claim has lost Israel much of its international support.  It will be interesting to see the internal political dynamics of both Palestine and Israel going forward, and how those dynamics affect the conflict.  Ultimately, the resolution may have been a opportunity for progress (one that Netanyahu refuses to take) but it is certainly not progress in and of itself.  A resolution of the conflict between Israel  and Palestine requires action by both Israel  and Palestine.  The UN’s role can never amount to more than a (albiet potentially vital) facilitator.

Some of the information in this post came from other articles and reports I’ve read.  It was a news-heavy weekend for Palestine and I can’t cite them all.


Dolphins in the Navy

Currently, the Navy has eighty military-trained dolphins it uses for its maritime missions. Dolphins perform a variety of tasks from locating and marking underwater mines to working with port security forces. According to the article, in 2017, twenty-four of the dolphins that are used for locating and marking underwater mines are going to be replaced by 12-foot robotic vehicle. These dolphins will be reassigned. The mine task is incredibly important for the Navy, specifically with regard to its missions in Iraq and Bahrain.

I found this article to be incredibly interesting as I was unaware of the use of dolphins in the Navy for such important missions. I think that the shift to using a robotic vehicle is a positive step for the Navy because dolphins take 8 years to train, whereas we can just send the robot into the water and it can do its job. I look forward to reading later about whether the robots are able to locating and mark mines just as well as dolphins.


North Korea Moves Against Internal Enemies

While it seems the North is going forward with its missile test the North is reporting that Kim Jong-un has warned against rebellious elements in DPRK society. This statement comes at a time when North Korea has come under scrutiny by other nations including its backer states. So it has to be wondered what this statement from the reclusive state’s leader means.

What can be assumed and as pointed out in the article is that North Korea may be losing a grip on elements within its society. This is great news and could point to the future collapse of the antagonistic state. The article points out that due to the power North Korean security forces there will not be an uprising like the kind we saw in the Middle East. Still there has been growing discontent in the country due to the declining living standards and lack of food. It appears that in the next few years we will see a major crisis in the DPRK. When that happens it will be something the US will have to involve itself in. In the meantime however there is the concern of the missile tests.


Rebellion in Congo

Rebellions and compromise of state authority seem to be a common trend in subsaharan/saharan Africa right now as The Democratic Republic of Congo along with Mali are undergoing negotiations with rebels seeking attention and demands from governments. This article highlights the situation in Congo recently and the rebels’ threat to retake the city of Goma, which they have evacuated, if the government does not adhere to negotiations and agrees to “re-evaluate the 2009 peace agreement”. In both Mali and Congo’s case, the resurgence of rebellions results from the governments’ neglect or delayed response to peace agreements and conditions. The rebels take up arms and fight against the armies, often assisted by external forces. Yet both of these countries receive large amounts of aid from the United States for security purposes. Resistance in both countries have been successful in weakening the army and obtaining a stronghold. Although in this case, the United States has halted aid to Rwanda who is speculated to provide to the M23, it should re-evaluate its FMF programs in Africa to states who are incapable of providing for all constituencies. Many rebels fight for the army and receive advanced training only to retaliate against their government when dissatisfied, and yet most of this training comes from U.S initiatives that are specifically targeting terrorism in the region and that ignores the externalities of these programs. A bit off on a tangent, but relevant to the issue nonetheless.


Civilian Alternatives for Defense Firms in Sequestration

The article addresses and criticizes advocates of military sequestration. It discusses the adverse affects of the military cutbacks on jobs in private sector defense firms and military-dependent communities. Lockheed-Martin estimates that over 123,000 of their employees are at risk of being laid off if the military cuts go through. Government jobs within the Pentagon are also considered at risk. The solution proposed to avoid job loss issues is for more government planning in creating and transitioning into civilian alternatives for defense firms. The civilian alternatives would generate revenue and be less dependent on federal dollars.

Cutting defense spending has become more popular as the deficit grows and the fiscal cliff approaches. Sequestration risks contributing to the deficit if job losses are significant causing the unemployment rate to increase. Across the board cuts are not productive or practical. Programs must be prioritized and civilian alternatives should be considered to absorb negative affects to the military industrial complex.


On The Verge Of Civil War

Last Thursday, talks between the Baghdad government and Kurdish military deteriorated as issues between the two have yet to be setled. Brokering the talks was a three-star American general left behind with his detachment after the United States withdrawal from Iraq. In disputed issues in question are the Iraqi military forces who according to Kurdish leaders are unconstitutionally deployed in the kurdistan region after sectarian tensions flared up two weeks ago. An armed clash occurred between both sides and spawned a movement of troops into the Kurdish region. Headway had been made earlier as both sides agreed to pull back troops in an effort to stabilize the situation, however two days later talks were dissolved. The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, stated last week that he will not back down from a swelling of Baghdad troops in the region and believes that the disputes between the two factions can be resolved through cooperation if the Baghdad governemnt is willing to try. Many critics believe however that this is the start or precursor to a greater clash and possible civil war between the two ethnic groups.

This explosive ongoing event has seen little to no coverage in mainstream US media. Critics believe that this is due to the fact that it negates credit to the Obama administration for pulling out of Iraq too soon while there were many resolved issues still at play in Iraq. The situation in Iraq is very real and very volatile and needs to gain the attention for what is ongoing. The US needs to play more of a role for we are the ones who did leave Iraq in this situation without resolving these tough issues between ethnic groups. An increase in diplomacy fostered by the US would be the best way to tackle this situation so that it does not escalate into an all out war.



Analysis: Protests Likely over High Food Prices in DRC and Zambia

One source has reported that an increase in food prices over the last week may lead to demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, both in Southern Africa.

On November 28, the DRC government suspended imports from Rwanda through Goma after a dispute involving M23 rebels, which has resulted in a 30-50 percent increase in food staples. In the Copperbelt province of Zambia, maize meal shortages have caused food price increases of up to 100%. This report stated that governments in both countries are likely to respond with force.

While food prices are not as high as they were when dozens of food riots broke out in 2008, they remain high and pose a direct threat to the national security of developing countries, and food shortages could result in numerous conflicts. While rising food prices have been a fundamental problem for years, this issue has been recently exacerbated by the summer 2012 drought that has decreased corn supply. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has been very vocal about current high food prices and has been putting pressure on the international community to find a solution.

I think it is imperative that developed nations prioritize food security in developing countries. At the most fundamental level, access to food is necessary for both national and global security. Lack of access to food fuels conflict and instability, which impacts the international community and can interfere with the interests of developed countries.


U.S. Looks to Help Countries Deal with Climate Change

The United States is heavily engaged in aiding poor countries, especially those in Africa, as they deal with the effects and challenges of climate change. One of the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) is to improve the global environment and slow global climate change, but often the practices associated with successfully slowing climate change are detrimental to underdeveloped countries’ development. Climate change hurts those countries whose main forms of subsistence and profit rely on agriculture and livestock production.


One of the biggest tools being used to aid countries around the world is a new satellite mapping system that helps them monitor and respond to global climate change. This could be a security issue in the future if these countries no longer need aid and we are leaving them with a sophisticated GIS system. On the other hand, assisting these developing countries now could prove beneficial to us down the road if we need allies in the area. Many developing countries remain wary and critical of rich nations like the U.S., but by donating to the improvement of their environment and helping them stave off the effects of global climate change, we are showing that we are listening to the needs of the countries and helping where we can.


Revenue’s cybersecurity job vacant

The current Revenue Director for South Carolina, Jim Etter, recently handed in his resignation. Etter came into the position of Revenue Director at the end of a year vacancy in the position, from September 11-August. During the time that the position was unfilled South Carolina’s tax collection agency experienced a huge breach. The state’s systems were hacked and 3.8 million taxpayers and 700,000 business’ information was stolen.

The worst part is, the hack could have been prevented with a system upgrade of $25,000 and better encryption. The current system only required one password, practically making it a cake walk for any hacker. Additionally, the system was vulnerable due to a lack of a Revenue Director for over a year. That’s basically like having a bank with no security guard. The state was having difficulty filling the position because of a low salary. Etter was working for only $75,000 a year, which is low-end for a cybersecurity related job.

The outcome of this story is partially due to a lack of efficiency. The job of Director should never have been unoccupied for such a long time and South Carolina should have been more active in recruitment. The state could have responded early and paid only $25,000 for an easy update that would have added additional passwords and increased system security. Since the hack, the state has spent upwards of $14 million trying to recover. And it seems the taxpayers will continue to be the ones paying. The state is unsure of how it will pay for all this and the burden may fall on the taxpayers.



Return top