Archive for December, 2014

Turkey to Aid in North African Security

Recently Turkey joined with North African nations to solidify agreements to partner up in security and cooperation in the Maghreb region. The region, which includes nations such as Algeria and Libya, has been plagued with Islamic extremism for the past several years, especially following the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled the dictatorships of Tunisia and Libya. Instability in the region led to the rise of militant groups and religious militias, which roam the desert areas claiming territory, some even aligning with the Islamic State.

Turkey stepping in is a big deal for both North Africa and the entire Middle East. Turkey has always been a strong regional power, but now it has the opportunity to take up a more major role in the stability and strength of the region and has the opportunity to spread its influence throughout the Arab world. Turkey has a history, dating back to before WWI, of dominating these regions under an empire. Now, as an ally of the US and a member of NATO, it has the power to spread its influence over its neighbors and reassert itself as a dominant player in the Middle East. Not saying a second Ottoman Empire is in the making, but Turkey is surely thinking nostalgically about its past in seeing towards its future.


– Sacha Brenac

Apply the Rigor of Investing to Foreign Aid


United States’ public opinion on foreign aid has been increasingly unfavorable. It is widely believed by the American people that the government spends too much on foreign aid, while in reality, foreign aid makes up of about 1% of the U.S. budget.  In order to combat the growing negativity on the topic, Hillary Clinton launched the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) in 2010 which aims to make foreign aid in all branches of government, more comprehensible. The reasons why the U.S. Spend money on foreign aid is to provide aid charity as well as receive something in return. The QDDR in 2010 succeeded in clarifying that foreign aid spending were investments. The QDDR has shown that by spending a small amount of money to save an individuals life from a foreign country, has a return of even more money through goods and services that individual will purchase over time. By providing something as small as malaria medication to people around the world, could have a right rate of return for the U.S. The QDDR also brings certain issues to light. The USAID has had issues with implementing goods and services abroad, but without the means to sustain them. The author explains American aid culture as stressing “passion, empathy, and goodness rather than results.” 

Through the QDDR, the government makes foreign aid more lucid and understandable to the American public, which should help in move away from the misconceptions about foreign aid. 

I think the QDDR is not only important in eliminating these misconceptions about foreign aid, but also bringing to light the problems the USAID faces. It has been seen in the past and continues to be seen, that the USAID will provide infrastructure such as hospitals or schools, which ultimately end up failing without the means to sustain these implementations. Afghanistan, for instance, has problems with security on these infrastructures. As the security relaxes over time terrorist groups that target infrastructures and services with a U.S. footprint, are destroyed. This has been a huge issue for the USAID because of the costs involved in implementing these services, that are far too often lost over time due to the lack of means to preserve them. I think that the QDDR is a good step toward working through these problems and coming up with a realistic solution. 


Due to increase in cyber hacks, the Justice Department has created a new Cyber Security Unit. This unit will focus on prosecuting cyber crimes. Recent cyber attacks were mentioned about the decision to create this unit. Privacy is a concern, but this unit is meant to fight against those who are violating others privacy. This effort is both a preventative as well as an enforcement strategy.

This is important to the US security because this is a step in fighting the “future” crime. If the US can deter criminals from doing cyber crimes, then the US could potentially stop states like Russia and China. Even though this seems like a domestic action, it could develop into a more sophisticated international action. This is an important step for the US government in attempting to stop cyber crime and set a new international norm regarding cyber security.

Israeli triumph over failed Hamas attack

Israel has been rejoicing over its uncovering of a planned attack in Jerusalem by a Hamas unit. The attack was discovered by Israeli internal security services and involved more than 30 militants trained overseas. The targets were the Teddy Stadium and a tram, and they also involved car bombings and kidnappings. Israeli officials report that the planned attack came from Hamas leaders in Turkey, and have been very open about emphasizing the success of the capture.

One reason for the Israeli government to flaunt this success is surely related to the failures in the recent past to prevent Palestinian extremists from carrying out car attacks and killings. By underscoring this success, Israel can show its people and the international community that it  still has some control over its internal affairs. This is incredibly important considering the recent string of events that have taken place in Israel to make citizens question their safety and stability.


FARC Frees General

Brig. Gen. Alzate (Image from AP)

This is the third post in a series about the capture of a Colombian brigadier general and two enlisted personnel that took place two weeks ago.

The Associated Press reported today that FARC has released general Rubén Darío Alzate and the two others he had been captured with to a contingent headed by the International Red Cross.

The capture initially caused the Colombian government to break off negotiations with the rebels following decades of fighting. Now the release may prompt an easing of tensions again as both sides return to the table. At least for now, major conflict between the two armed groups has been avoided. We may not yet see a return to the counter-terror operations conducted in previous years and backed by the United States. This move by both groups to resolve the matter means less US involvement militarily and could spell peace for the region, despite the rift that continues to exist between rural and urban areas of the country.

The Obama administration while not praising the actions of FARC would do well to at least acknowledge the events that took place and agree it could have gone much worse.


NATO Spearhead

With Europe being concerned over the increase of Russian aggression, NATO forces have come up with a plan to be more prepared in case of an incursion on ally soil.  This reaction force, known as the “interim spearhead” will consist of a few hundred troops from German, the Netherlands and Norway that will be rotating between states of readiness.  By 2016, NATO intends to have this fully equipped spearhead prepared to have troops deployed at the incursion site within 48 hours of the attack.  This will help “deter and defend” ally territories from possibly threats, mainly from Russia.  However Russia claims that NATO is trying to destabilize the region by having these increased military exercises despite they will have no direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict.  A former Norwegian prime minister is trying to bring the NATO-Russian-Council back so that both sides can talk about security concerns.

This spearhead policy that NATO has come up with is one of their better ones.  It speeds up the response time to the NATO Article V commitments in case of a Russian incursion in NATO territories.  Its also interesting to see this former Norwegian prime ministers trying to resume talks between both sides.  Hopefully come up with a diplomatic solution where both sides’ security and international interests are heard and understood to great a fair deal to ensure peace.


First Human Ebola Vaccine Seems to Work

Until the recent outbreak, the creation of an Ebola vaccine was not at the top of the list. Most funding for an Ebola vaccine only came from US biodefense programs geared towards protecting the US from a bio-terrorist attack. But now that Ebola is causing havoc in West Africa and worrying people around the globe, pharmaceutical companies are prioritizing vaccination development in hopes that they will be the first to create an Ebola vaccine that is successful and marketable. Recent trials show that we may have a winner. The first test of an Ebola vaccine on people shows that the vaccine is safe and works as it was designed too. The drug produces an immunity that scientists expected it would, and does not seem harmful. The real test is yet to come. Total success will be when doctors, nurses and other health care workers treating patients with Ebola, use the vaccine and remain Ebola free. WHO officials hope to have a vaccine available to begin immunizing health care officials by next month.

Right now, any successful vaccination will go to healthcare officials helping those in West Africa and any infected elsewhere, first. So either way it will be a while before something will be available in hometown medical offices. But the thought of having a vaccine to immunize against Ebola is wonderful. One less illness to worry about and a positive move towards the strengthening of our national health security. Obama has stated the safety of the American people is priority in our efforts to combat Ebola. A successful vaccine would be the best effort the US could make to accomplish this priority. The vaccine would help to immunize against Ebola but the article does not give much detail about how effective the vaccine may be to someone who is already infected.

– Lauren

Losing Ground

It has been reported that Jabhat al Nusra is struggling to maintain its influence and role in Syria. This information has been reported by rebels, opposition activists, analysts and supporters of the group. In the past al Nusra has had control of the strategically vital Southern front in the war against president Bashar Al Assad. They had been using suicide bombers as well as gaining defectors from other groups and getting cash from donors in the Arabian Gulf. They had essentially set up their own mini-state and their enemies both feared and respected them. Now, however, they seem to no longer have the same degree of influence. They have lost some funding, there are internal rivalries playing out and they have faced some losses on the battlefield. The rebels that had once fought along side them have started moving away for al Nusra. One analyst said of the group, “ Nusra is still popular but not like it was before, for example it has not been providing food aid to people the way it used to, they are getting less financial help from private donors.” On top of their loss of resources they are also facing their war against the Islamic State, which is bound to take a toll on the group. Because of the decline in cash and influence many who once wanted to join Nusra for their combat units (instead of their ideology) now turn to more organized, funded, and successful factions. Al Nusra is now even desperate enough to lower their standards for new fighters. Because of many of their recent actions many supporters have lessened their cooperation with group and are trying to strengthen their own groups in an attempt to limit Nusra’s power. The group has even decided to join a joint court system with other rebel factions. One rebel commander said, “A sign Nusra is losing influence is that it agreed to be part of the unified court, they have had to tone down their aggressive approach after they found out it is no longer working for them,” he also went on to say, “Their money and membership is dwindling, and their reputation is at rock bottom, people are no longer happy with Nusra in the south.”

If the group continues to decline in this fashion this would be good for the US and our allies, that is assuming they decline beyond the point of being able to fix their organization. If this were to happen then it would probably save the US quite a bit of time and money. They could potentially destroy themselves meaning there would one less organization that the US has to try to fight. Or one of the other groups that has been moving away from them, or ISIS, could contribute to the destruction of the group. In this case, it’s possible that both groups would be damaged (maybe even beyond repair). This case would also be good for the US, because we again have organizations fighting themselves without the help of the US. This, again, would save the US money, time, and hopefully soldiers lives.


The National

IMF Unfreezes Aid for Mali

The International Monetary Fund punished Mali six months ago for spending $40 million dollars on a presidential plane. Now that the aid freeze has been lifted, Mali will again continue to receive $46 million dollars of credit. This money is to go to the frail economy of Mali, to support its political and military ventures in stabilizing the countryside.

For years now Mali has been ravaged by internal strife, the northern Tuareg regions virtually controlled by Islamic extremists. These regions include important cultural sites and areas of historical importance. When important cultural heritage sites started to be destroyed by the extremists, the West began to intervene with France sending a force to back up the failing Malian armed forces.

Where do these militants come from? Why is Muslim extremism becoming so prevalent in North and now closer to Central Africa, as seen by the problems in northern Nigeria? The Arab Spring has everything to do with this tirade of challenges. Following the Libyan Civil War and the elections in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of militants suddenly saw their cause disappear, the democratic elections working against Islamic political parties, or in the case of Libya, mercenaries losing employment. So they move south, where the Sahara proves a more fertile ground for warlords and religious extremism to take hold.

Where the West does not wish to send troops, or where they do not wish to fully commit, they send money. The IMF and the World Bank both deal with these transfers, these nation-building campaigns. But they do not deal with the real problems. Corruption sees much of the money gone to waste, as seen with the Malian example, and even with extra cash, there is no amount of money that will defeat a religious fanatic on a suicide warpath.


– Sacha Brenac

Kim Jong Un doesn’t want to play with James Franco and Seth Rogen

Sony Pictures is releasing “The Interview” on December 25th, and this has caused some outrage from North Korea. In the movie  Seth Rogen is a producer of a late night television show of which James Franco is the host, and they are invited to North Korea for an exclusive interview because the leader, Kim Jon Un, is a fan of the movie. The controversial part of the movie is that when the interview is set up the CIA reaches out to the duo wanting them to assassinate Kim in the interview. Understandably, the North Korean leader isn’t exactly enthusiastic about the release of this movie, and their opposition may have resulted in a cyber hack.  The government of the DPRK has stated that the release of this movie will result in a “merciless counter-measure” and has written to President Obama in the hopes of halting the release of the movie. Sony Pictures suspects that North Korean hackers are responsible for the cyber attack on last Monday. The attack shut down the network within Sony Pictures adorning the “Hacked By #GOP” logo on the black screens. The hackers also threatened to use “secrets” from the attack.

Although there has been no direct link found between the attack and North Korea as the perpetrators, Sony suspects either China or North Korean involvement. If this is the way that North Korea is going to respond to a movie, we may have a cyber security problem if North Korea feels threatened. North Korea didn’t need another reason to pinpoint the US as their arch enemy, as they are looking as this movie as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism”, and as harmless as the movie may appear to be to Americans , the leadership in North Korea don’t see the humor and this could have larger implications. It would be a bad idea for North Korea to take any kind of aggressive action towards the US based on this movie, but if the administration is worried, maybe a public statement regarding the fact that the movie is not affiliated or reflect the views of the US government is in order.



Also if you want to watch the trailer here is a link

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