Archive for January, 2015

Health Epidemics are a Global Problem



The Ebola epidemic which surfaced this past year showed that there was a global lack of security in terms of being able to handle widespread disease, as certain regions of the world were not aptly able to handle outbreaks as others. The United Nations now recognizes that they were not readily prepared when the time came to combat ebola and that there needs to be reform in the way they handle future incidents like this. Problems which occur in one region of the world that is communicable will almost always become a global problem, as we have seen a few cases for ebola in United States citizens. No country is risk free from suffering from the same outbreaks as what they may consider an inferior country, and that is why it is the job of a global organization such as the World Health Organization which has pulled resources of numerous nations to combat these epidemics.

Chinese Paper-Paranoids

China’s Politburo announced this week that “there must be a constant strengthening of a sense of peril,” in order for the national security of that nominally communist country to be secure. As I examined the Chinese decision to get involved in the fight against ISIS last week, this “sense of peril” does not need to be summoned from the nether. However, the scent of fear mongering should be familiar to any american observers who stay tuned in during our election cycles.
Although China has taken steps in recent years to build-up its national security apparatus, such as the establishment of a National Security Commission in 2013, lately the security services have been smeared with the tar brush Xi Jingping is using to hunt down corruption.
This suggests to me that the Chinese do not truly feel as vulnerable as they would have outsiders believe. If they were feeling the pressure of an existential threat from without their walls, they would not be arresting the head of domestic security at the same time.
However, that does not mean that this projection of weakness can be ignored. The United States should engage as though the concern is real and verified. This way we are sure to prevent causing anymore paranoid feelings in Beijing until the environment has settled, and may be able to extract useful agreements during the interim, such as the recent agreement on climate-change emissions.

– Alex

Defense Spending on What?

With the evolution of the word “security” and the increasingly moving target idea of terrorism, the  United States is at a point where it could change the way we look at defense spending. For decades, the country has been behind the times in readiness. Today’s budgetary constraints make that an ever growing problem. The challenge is that of technological advances and adapting hardware. With the focus of security moving towards a focus on cyber threats, there could be a window for change. There is a lack of regional knowledge provided by the Department of Defense that does not align with current threats. Coming from the  Security of State’s offices, there is a need for increased  regional specific intelligence. Beneficial personnel with language, regional history, cultural, and religious knowledge could greatly benefit situational awareness and tactical strategy. I believe this move would be largely beneficial to fully utilizing the allocations to the Department of Defense because of the  variances of threats. The increased and on-going threat of cybersecurity and the threats of groups like Isis coming out of the Middle East show an area of lacking that need to be addressed. The comparison is made of the funding of an F-35 carrier, costing around $100 million, could be better spent training hundreds of translators and regional specialists with economic, political, and religious scholars. This sounds like a much better investment than the traditional defense spending route that would be useless in the arena of cyber warfare.

Nato and the Cyber Security Challenge

After North Korea’s cyber attack on Sony in December, NATO has highlighted its commitment to keeping member states’ defense capabilities secure from cyber warfare.  On January 23 NATO held a meeting at its  cyber security center in Brussels with the 28 representatives of its member states.  This was a move to make its members feel secure about this emerging threat.  I think it is an interesting question to ask will the U.S. become reliant on NATO for cyber security in the future?  This move in tandem with the other (weaker) states reliance, will make the alliance stronger going forward.  However, this would depend on the severity of the threat cyber security will pose in the future (can it really cause substantial material damage?), and would require the U.S. to give up some autonomy.  This though, would give greater balance to an organization who’s purpose after the fall of the Soviet Union is still re-orienting.   Edward

Pro-Russian militants attack the key port city of Mariupol.

“Today an offensive was launched on Mariupol. This will be the best possible monument to all our dead,”- the leader of self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic had announced earlier today.

Since approximately 8 a.m. of January 24th the heavy shelling of the resident districts of Mariupol has begun, and has been going on since then with various intencity. According to the chairman of ukrainian Security Council Olexandr Turchynov, there were “undeniable proofs” of Russian involvement in an attack that might be a full-scale assault along the whole frontline of the conflict, and not just in Mariupol area. Considering the recent successful operations of Ukrainian military, the Russian-backed seoaratists seem to be exhausted and might lack a manpower for closing up with the entranched positions of government’s forces, unless the the actual Russian military is involved now, disguised as the rest of the rebels. This attack also might be another push for creating a land corridor to connect Russia and the occupied Crimea, and Mariupol in rather conviniently located on the coast of Azov Sea, on the shortest rout between Russian border and it’s newly “aquired” territory. That is certainly a possibility, considering that at the moment the militants have much more equipment at their disposal than they could’ve ever stolen or salvaged from the captured military bases in the area. The only other place they could’ve acquired such equipment is Russia, and since there’s no way to purchase or simply receive it from anyone other than from the governmental agencies, there is not much room for a doubt that the Russia has contributed to the fueling the conflict, if it is not actually running the show. Of cource, the leaders of EU and the US officials, including the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt had issued a condemnation statements regarding the attack, and, unsurprisingly, the Russian officials were vocal in condemning it too, and blaming the Ukrainian “fascist” forces for the shelling.

Dmytro, 1/24/2015

Cyber Games to be held between US and Britain

The United States and Britain have announced plans to cooperate in “cyber games” in an effort to increase cyber security in both nations. This is vital due to the recent hacks of Sony and the U.S. military central command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts last week. While these previous attacks have not been extremely damaging they have illustrated how the increasingly technologically dependent world is simultaneously becoming more vulnerable to damage by hackers.These cyber games will allow for preparation for potential attacks on both nations financial centers, which since most stock is electronically traded is an appealing target for terrorist organizations. The US and Britain must train a group of experts whose job revolves around countering these new threats because while computers have been central to national security in the past, they have become  a major risk as well.

The “Disappearing” people of Syria

Syria has been in a state of chaos since the beginning of March 2011 when the Syrian Revolution or Syrian uprising began. Since the beginning of this civil war thousands of Syrians have “forcibly disappeared.” 85,000 people are estimated to being held in various regime jails, 2,600 people have disappeared without a trace and 1,200 have been held by armed groups according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. These shocking numbers are abductions from different regimes trying to obtain power in the Syrian state and the victims of the abductions are typically family members, relatives or activists that are opposing other regimes within Syria. Because they are technically being captured by government groups and regimes it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint just which regime is responsible and there is no official avenue to search for those who have been captured because there is no legitimate government. Numbers continue to grow and now with the emergence of the Islamic State and other fundamentalist groups it is expected that these numbers will continue to grow and it will be even more difficult to track those who have been captured because ISIS denies having and holding any prisoners. The United States is put in a difficult position with the Syrian Uprising. The amount of chaos and varying terrorist regimes that are emerging in the region is reason enough for the United States to get involved. However, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it would be extremely unpopular for President Obama or any incoming president to get involved in another war in the Middle East. United States citizens are sick of losing soldiers and policing war torn middle eastern countries that they should not get involved in. The current use of drones and alternative forms of controlling the area seem to be addressing the situation currently without putting troops on the ground, but if the situation worsens in Syria, it seems that it is going to be inevitable that Syria will have to be addressed in a big way and unfortunately the United States may end up fighting yet another war in the Middle East. Unless the Syrian Uprising and these Islamic fundamentalist groups begin to weaken. The United States may see itself in a war that seemingly will not end in the Middle East and scarier yet, they would have to deal with the Islamic State and are now would be much closer to the Russia/Ukraine dilemma that Washington seems to be careful dealing with.


FARC Influence in Colombia

For 50 years the Colombian army has dealt with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Farc is recognized as a terrorist organization and has struggled with the government for some sort of legitimacy. The current President recognizes the army and considers this an “armed conflict” in hopes of an understanding with the rebels. FARC has hosted peace talks in the past but were banned after multiple hostage situations. With the possible upcoming bilateral cease fire negotiation, the President has removed the ban once again. President Santos believes a cease fire may be able to be reached before a peace agreement. But it is a dangerous risk to negotiate with a rebel organization. FARC has a long history of belligerent and violent use of force. They have made agreements with the Colombian government and broken them. The United States has always taken a strong and clear position, by refusing to negotiate with terrorists, which has led to much criticism. I believe this stance is the safest when it comes to the security of a nation. FARC has a long, bloody history with the Colombian government, something needs to be done but a negotiation poses too many risks. Depending on the outcome of the peace talks, this could strengthen or disprove the United States policy towards terrorists.


China Commits to Combat ISIS, and Probably More.

Last December, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged China’s participation in the fight against the Islamic State, but probably signaled a new period of Chinese engagement in the Middle East. This shouldn’t shock. The same sort of extreme interpretation of Islam that inspires ISIS has sparked domestic terror groups among the Chinese Uighur population. This makes the decision to take active measures against IS probably justified on the fear of spillover violence alone. However, it is often said that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and the context proves this maxim applies to this announcement.

New data shows that last year China surpassed the United States as the largest importer of Middle Eastern energy, while the United States continued to draw down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In conjunction these data points suggest that officials in Beijing are recognizing that a decreased American presence will present increased opportunity for Islamic extremists to create chaos, just as the Chinese economy is growing more dependent on regional energy. This suggests that far from an isolated reaction to a unique threat, the Chinese decision to join the worldwide fight against ISIS is part of a long-term strategy of deeper engagement in the Middle East. In fact, the universal opprobrium directed at ISIS provides the perfect opportunity to flex the military muscle China has spent recent years building up, without triggering the paranoid backlash that typically colors American and international reactions to displays of increasing Chinese power.

Despite the near constant fear mongering concerning growing Chinese strength in domestic American politics, this announcement also shouldn’t scare. As long as it remains limited, deeper Chinese engagement in the Middle East can only be a boon to U.S. interests at present. The American public has firmly announced that it doesn’t have the will power to support large scale military engagements overseas, just as the spillover threat posed by ISIS is seemingly confirmed by the attacks in Paris. If the United States can’t effectively police the region, then we should not protest when another power steps up to the plate. After all, a significant slowdown in Middle Eastern oil production would harm the American economy nearly as much as it would China’s, and the terrible logic of terrorism works the same in Washington, D.C. as it does in Beijing.

– Alex

House Defense Committee & Possible Increases of Defense Spending

With the new Congress comes new agenda priorities from both parties. The Republican House picked Mac Thornberry to be the House Armed Services Committee Chairman, with the drive to increase the defense spending cap. Right after the hacking of the U.S. Central Command twitter, the importance of defense spending became ever so apparent. Terrorism isn’t as easy to detect as before, the field is ever evolving. The development of Cyberterrorism and Nuclear technologies call for Congress to increase the preparedness by our Armed forces. Unfortunately, with the need for increased technologies and spending comes a shortfall in other areas of the budget, including healthcare coverage and costs for the troops being deployed. The 114th Congress is now tasked with funding an ever-evolving security industry by protecting the American people from the idea of Nuclear Proliferation coming from Russia and China, to virtually undetectable cyber-security issues such that Isis is creating.


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