Archive for January, 2019

Violations of Human Rights in Palestine

Human Rights Watch released a report about Palestinian leadership’s arrests, persecution of political activists, students, and journalists. The report indicated “more than 80 cases of torture and arbitrary arrests, some for nothing more than writing a critical article or Facebook post, others for belonging to the wrong student group or political movement.” This disturbing violation of human rights is clearly a human security issue as it directly threaten the safety and well-being of the people impacted. The acts were downplayed by authorities as “isolated cases” but as the article explains, press freedom in the middle east has been a hot topic after the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. Personally I think the “isolated cases” excuse seems unlikely and I can only imagine how many cases may have gone unreported to human rights organizations and how severe this issue may actually be. Some Palestinians have recently been victims of displacement by the Israeli government so the anger is understandable in a sense, but this does not justify the arrest and torture of those who may not agree with Palestinian leadership. Israeli resentment against the Palestinians is understandable too of course, given the years of violence, but ultimately the dispute has faults on both sides. All of this no doubt has increased hostilities between the two states thus only adding fuel to the seemingly everlasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

-Katelyn Hilton

link to article:

Steps to Denuclearize

During the the first summit, United States and North Korea meet at Singapore discussing the denuclearization of North Korea’s military. It was announced in this meeting that North Korea will work towards denuclearization and as of New Year day the country has reported that they are no longer creating nuclear weapon. Our president Mr. Trump is also claiming North Korea announcement to be true and that our relationship with North Korea is on good standing. But despite North Korea steps to denuclearize, it still has not reported the time process it will take to completely diminish their nuclear weapons and is still continuing operating its missile bases. I believe the reason why North Korea is continuing with its missile operations is because, if they are in fact removing nuclear weapons from its country, it will be vulnerable from an attack from the United States. Both countries may have a better understanding of each other and on better terms but , they both see one another as large security risks. It is one the biggest reasons why Untied States is so adamant to have North Korea denuclearize because it fears that the containment of nuclear weapons with in the country threats its sovereignty. The same applies to North Korea, so in order to make up for the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons, it is continuing to operate its missile bases and will probably increase its production.

Crystal Nmoh


UN cautions climate change could impact national security

The UN presented its study of what future effects climate change could have of on national security for every nation’s interest. The UN’s chief scientist on weather and climate stated that climate change has “a multitude of security impacts” and is becoming more widely regarded as a national security threat. The chief scientist of the World Meteorological Organization, warned at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that climate change is depleting the gains mankind has made in the global population’s access to food. The climate scientist explained how climate change has been exacerbating the potential for wildfires leading to worsening air quality. This explain is especially true in the United States where California has experienced its worst wild fire season in history. The fires caused billions of dollars of damage destroying vast areas of land, burning down properties, farms, and businesses. Experts suggest that these fires will negatively impact the United States domestic food production, causing the U.S. to be more dependent on imported goods, decreasing our food security. Climate change also threatens our coast lines which is especially concerning for Naval ports that sit just a few feet above sea level and are at risk of being significantly impacted by sea level risk as a result of climate change. This is an obvious threat to our national security interest.

Davis Schmudde

ISIL ‘caliphate’ in Syria to be defeated within month: SDF chief

According to Kurdish leaders, ISIS is nearing the end of its presence in Iraq. The head of Kurdish led SDF (Syrian defense force), Mazloum Kobani, has stated that ISIS military presence will soon be eliminated from the region, “I believe that during the next month we will officially announce the end of the military presence on the ground of the so-called caliphate.” This reinforces the notion that ISIS power is not what it once was a few years ago and that the terrorist organization could be on its last legs. However, Kobani has also mentioned that while the military presence of ISIS will have been eliminated, terrorist attacks on civilians and military personnel will continue and possibly increase as the group becomes more and more desperate to survive. While attacks are likely to continue, this news will only embolden anti-ISIS forces who hope to eliminate ISIS as a security threat to both the US and within the Middle East and possibly encourage President Trump to remove troops from the region sooner rather than later. However, this is in Iraq, whose Political climate varies greatly to that of Syria and other neighboring countries where ISIS still holds territory and influence as shown by the recent terrorist attacks that killed four Americans, and Trump should be cautious in what step he takes in regards to troop presence and involvement in the region.

By Kyle Welty
Article Link:

US-Iran Relations

Some fear that the US and Iran are inching closer to military conflict. Sanctions and the Trump administration’s foreign policy are leading some to believe that it is inevitable. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have both previously taken hard stances on Iran, both advocating a change of regime in the past. A recent article by Al Jazeera claims that sanctions by the US are meant to force Iran into armed conflict. Their sources, all believe the Trump administration is not interested in diplomacy.

The Numbers Game

The Heritage Foundation and IISS statistical findings.

By just a quick glance it is exuberantly clear that the United States spends significantly more money on defense than its other leading competitors (to include China and Russia combined). However, as columnist Robert Samuelson argues, there is more than meets the eye. There are many factors that contribute to the total cost of defense spending. One example Samuelson points to is the cost in salaries of those in uniform. In the United States servicemen and women are volunteers, in the sense that individuals voluntarily agree to go into a military career. Therefore the obligations to salary pay are a different scale than say that of China and Russia, who are do not have the same obligations to their military members. Secondly, Samuelson discusses the difference in purchasing powers between countries. The cost of machinery, labor, etc. in the United States will be higher than that of China. This concept can be explained by the economic concept of purchasing power parity (PPP). This being said, we have to be cautious when assuming the numbers that other countries publicly agree to release reflect true spending; we can never be certain of the actual numbers.

Samuelson’s column does not look to argue for more or less spending, but rather point out the fallacies that can come about when discussing defense spending as a whole. His approach offers readers several points to think about. Setting aside political preferences, this column shows that defense spending (much like many policy decisions the government is tasked with making) is multifaceted and more complicated than what can be seen at a first glance. While it is important to be able to summarize issues to reach the general public, it is also important that we need not loose the issue’s complexity.

By: Maeve R.



Space and Intelligence Strategy

On Monday, January 21, the office of the Director of National Intelligence released an updated intelligence strategy. The strategy memo discusses the international threats faced by the United States. One of the changes to the memo is a direct result of President Trump’s focus on space and preparing space as a possible warfighting domain. The document state that, “no longer a solely U.S. domain, the democratization of space poses significant challenges for the United States and the Intelligence community.” The document specifically references Russia and China’s anti-satellite weapons which would severally decrease the overall security of the U.S. and the U.S. military. Space as a potential conflict zone might seem outlandish at first but when one considers the important role of reconnaissance spy satellites throughout the history of American Intelligence the idea of conflict in space is not so unconventional. The hypothetical use of anti-satellite weapons against the U.S. illustrates the assumption of classical realism that “states are continuously engaged in a struggle to increase their capabilities.”* Russia and China increasing their presence in space and the creation of anti-satellite weapons are examples of their increasing capabilities.

– Emma

*Also referenced Michael Jensen and Colin Elman’s article on Realism in the Security Studies reader (page 19)

Russia, Venezuela, the Oil Market & Nuclear-Capable Bombers

The United States and Venezuela have suffered further hindered relations as of late, with Nicolas Maduro essentially severing ties with the U.S. and ordering representing diplomats to leave the country. There has been talk of implementing further energy sanctions as a response, which would reduce the exportation of oil and crude between the two states greatly.

Russia has been investing billions of dollars into their relations with Venezuela, promoting the oil and arms industries. The state owns at least five Venezuelan oil fields. Tensions have risen toward the U.S. due to what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said is “destructive outside interference”.

Tu-160 Bomber.

While disagreements over Venezuelan oil may not be a present cause for concern, two nuclear capable Tu-160 bombers touched down outside of Caracas in December. This could mean that Russian intentions go beyond that of investing in natural resources. The author of the article refers to this as Russia “asserting its foreign interests”, which could mean potential trouble for anyone.

Oil is an essential and invaluable resource for all countries involved, whether they’re importing or exporting it. The U.S. is currently the largest exporting state in the world. It is difficult to say if these tensions could translate into conflict with Russia, since most predictions indicate that Russia will not be successful in establishing economic growth in Venezuela. These events certainly do not strengthen our relationship with Russia, but for now remain benign. We will have to wait and see if oil once again becomes a catalyst for foreign conflict, or if the presence of nuclear-capable bombers becomes an immediate threat to our security.

-Christina C.

The Weaponization of Artificial Intelligence

We are in the midst of a 21 century arms race as the development of autonomous weapons systems (AWS) is progressing rapidly among many nations. Top researchers who follow such developments are saying that the general increase in the weaponization of A.I. has become a highly destabilizing element in regards to world security and the future of humanity at large. We are faced with new type of warfare as A.I. is leading the world towards a new “algorithmic warfare battlefield” in which no boundaries or borders exist, human beings cease to be physically present. Experts fear the potential reality of a weapon that once activated across cyberspace, geospace, and space, (CGS) can select and engage human and non-human targets without human direction by either designer or operator. This “future” is already a reality in terms of what we have seen thus far by our current year of 2019 in terms of the developments made in the realm of cyberwarfare, as well as the rapid development of AI weaponization in terms of unmanned naval, aerial, and terrain vehicles which can produce collateral-damage estimates and deploy “fire and forget” missile systems.

The million dollar question going forward is: what uses of AI in warfare should be allowed, restricted, or made illegal?

There are so many security risks at play here as machine learning tends uses machines to train other machines. Algorithms are not by no means secure and likely never will be. I can only think about how susceptible my own PC is to malware and viruses which have the ability to steal my data, operate the device from a remote location, and or crash it entirely. The weaponization of AI is opening up a whole new can of security threats to world peace and I can only hope that limits and restrictions will be put in place by leading world powers. Just because we CAN do something, doesn’t always mean we SHOULD. 

Anyone else thinking “skynet” from the Terminator series? Its looking less and less far-fetched by the day.

– Alex

The Race for a 5G Network May be Costly to National Security

The United States is currently racing against China to construct new fifth generation wireless networks that would potentially change the way people use the internet.  At stake are “billions of dollars in royalties, a head start in developing new technologies, and national security”.  It is imperative that 5G technology comes with adequate security to prevent outside actors from hacking this modern and currently vulnerable innovation.  If 5G technology will be the gateway for a widespread autonomous vehicle breakthrough, then this technology should be protected from Russians or North Koreans from tampering with our vehicles on the road.  Or if 5G is the technology that will enable remote surgical operations to take place, then we need to protect the network from outside actors who could potentially interrupt this procedure.

The President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee told him in November that “the cybersecurity threat now poses an existential threat to the future of the nation”.  The creation of 5G technology requires responsible leadership as it is absolutely necessary that any breakthrough technology comes with adequate security.  The Trump Administration is poorly handling this leadership as none of Trump’s directives on this “5G Race” include any measures on cybersecurity.  Congress should use its oversight power to explore why the administration is not taking any measures to advance cybersecurity.  Even though the Trump administration is working towards this technological and economic breakthrough, its lack of responsibility in the national security sector raises serious questions.


Return top