Archive for March, 2019

China’s Scare Tactics Prompt U.S. Fears of a Clash Over Taiwan

Tensions are building between the United States and China in the Pacific, especially over the issue of Taiwan’s independence. A Chinese warship came within 45 yards of the bow of a Navy destroyer in the South China Sea late last year and the US Navy has increased its presence in the Taiwanese Strait as recent as March 24th. Xi Jinping has previously warned that any effort to assert Taiwanese independence will be met with armed conflict, but Trump has been signaling that he plans to help Taiwan as a part of his hawkish policies towards China.

Trump has granted Taiwan’s request for 60 new F-16 fighter jets to help support the country’s defense and offer a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative by promoting arms sales in the Pacific. The Trump administration must proceed with extreme care in Taiwan because of the danger of being pulled into an armed conflcit that China appears to be fully prepared for. Preservation of the party is important for China, so the White House must be careful about the potential damages to the Party’s image if they continue to support Taiwan with arms sales. I think the article brings up important points about the bullying and economic tactics that China uses to shut down the Indo-Pacific and I think the United States should look to counter these measures with increased economic investment and naval presence in the Pacific. The United States should promote a free and open Pacific, but they must maintain diplomatic ties with China or they could risk armed conflict and proxy wars.

-Andrew Sharpe

Is Ebola Real?

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been experiencing an Ebola outbreak since August in which over 600 people have died and over 1,000 became infected with the virus which is the second-largest ever recorded. Researchers started to survey people located in Ebola-hit areas and more than 25% of people believe that Ebola doesn’t exist; 36% of people also believe that the disease is being made-up in order to destabilize the country. So why do people think Ebola is made up and why do they not trust government officials when they say the disease is real? The reason people distrust the government is because of decades-long conflict which has allowed the disease to be spread more.

Health officials from DR Congo as well as the US and other countries have largely been ineffective at curtailing this disease is because officials are often accompanied by policy or security forces. Citizens of DR Congo become frightened and distrustful of the health officials for this reason. An additional factor is the cultural differences. Traditional death rituals often have members of the community touch a corpse. The Ebola virus can still be active in a corpse and can be transmitted. Health officials often aren’t believed which allows the spread of the virus as well.

Ebola causes a major health concern for Africa as well as the rest of the world. This virus is very dangerous and deadly. Due to the medical equipment in Africa, the disease can’t always be effectively managed. Because so many people don’t believe that Ebola really exists, there could be increased spread of the virus. The spread of the virus could easily spread to other countries and even find its way to the US. DR Congo should invest heavily in education programs so that their citizens can know that the virus does indeed exist as well as know preventative measures. Clinics should also be more widespread so that they can catch the virus and treat it effectively.


North Korea says Madrid embassy raid was “grave terror attack”

Last month, the North Korean embassy in Spain was broken into. There have been rumors that the FBI played a part in the attack. The Cheollima Civil Defense, a group determined to dislodge North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claimed responsibility last Wednesday. They succeeded in obtaining computers and data and they claim that they gave this information to the FBI. One member of the group, Adrian Hong Chang was able to enter the building and once he was inside the rest of the group barged in. They interrogated the commercial attaché but when he didn’t give them anything they left him tied up in the basement. Later, when the police arrived, Adrian Hong Chang pretended to be a North Korean diplomat and told the officers that nothing had happened. As the investigation has been going on, Spanish authorities think that the US could have had a hand in it. North Korea’s former ambassador in Madrid was Kim Hyok-chol who is now a representative in the North Korean talks with the US but was forced to leave the embassy in Spain in 2017 over North Korea’s nuclear testing program. The attack was most likely looking for information on Kim Hyok-chol. If the US was involved in this attack it could destroy relations between North Korea and the US. Not having a relationship with North Korea is dangerous because we will no longer be able to negotiate with them about nuclear programs. It will be interesting to see where the investigation goes.


German police arrest 10 suspected of planning terror attack

Andrew Radel


Today, ten terrorists where arrested in Germany in six different places; Essen, Duesseldorf, Wuppertal, Moenchengladbach, Duisburg and Ulm respectively. Suspected of having connections with the Islamic State directly or as a splinter group these individuals where arrested due to their planning of a “serious act of violent subversion.” However, no specific target was mentioned.


Here we have an example of how those who suspect that the Islamic State threat, despite losing basically all of its territory, is as deadly as ever. The Islamic State going underground hiding as it faces conventional defeat illustrates that now the real fight in detecting, finding and  preventing its resurgence begins. Also, it seems that despite the threat of the Islamic State these terrorist plot discoveries by European intelligence and police agencies are not getting  a lot of attention. The vagueness of the article and others similar to it, covering the same content, seems to illustrate this. I personally find that as these plots are getting discovered more frequently demonstrates a collection and analysis tactical change in continental European countries intelligence and police agencies as they are able to continue preventing these terrorist attacks.


Sanctions are Effecting Iran’s Ability to Fund Terror

Despite substantial criticism from the international community, signs are emerging that abandoning the Iranian Nuclear Deal is resulted in the way the Trump administration intended. Iran has become unable to fund terrorist groups throughout the middle east due to the economic strain they are feeling. Groups like Hezbollah and Islamic Shiite militias in Syria are reporting that their salaries are being slashed. Hezbollah fighters are being forced out of their subsidized housing as Iran can no longer afford to fund them. This was one of the Trump administration’s main goals. Iran has expanded it’s influence through proxy groups for years. When the Obama administration agreed to sign the JCPOA they acknowledged that it would improve Iran’s ability to fund terror groups throughout the middle east, but they argued that Iran would be able to fund terror regardless of sanctions. The recent sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have proved this to be wrong. And sanctions could be increased if the administration decides it is necessary. Iran is still shipping close to a million barrels of oil a day. The US could bring Iranian oil exports to zero if they stop allowing sanction waivers. I think that the current approach being taken is working perfectly. Sanctions have greatly reduced Iranian terror funding. Also, Iran has not made good on their threats to continue nuclear development after US withdrawal. The current approach should be continued. Ramping up sanctions could result in unintended consequences.


Top Gainers of Defense Spending

Sailors and Marines stationed and embarked aboard USS Makin Island (LHD 8) man the rails of the amphibious assault ship as they pass by downtown San Diego to begin their scheduled 7-month deployment. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Jason J. Perry)

USS Makin Island passes downtown San Diego as it begins a 7-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Jason J. Perry)   

While budget posture hearings continue, here is a break from FY2020 news. A recent report by the Defense Department Office of Economic Adjustment listed out top states, counties, and companies to which the U.S. DoD spent the most money in 2017. California, Virginia, and Texas make up the top 3 states. Virginia’s also ranks at the top the  for defense spending as a share of state gross domestic product (8.9%).  Fairfax County, Virginia ($13.7 billion), Tarrant County, Texas ($13 billion) and San Diego County, California ($9.2 billion) rank among the top counties nationwide. Lockheed Martin Corp. was the top defense contractor ($30.5 billion), while Boeing came in second ($22 Billion).

     This article is an interesting read. It looks at defense spending in a way that is not talked about often. Breaking down how the money is funneled into states and companies (versus discussing it as one whole) show how multifaceted defense budgeting is and who aims to gain from defense spending conversations. For some state and local economies, like Fairfax county or Norfolk in Virginia, defense contractor and employees represents a large percentage and are in some way dependent on this industry. Overall, this factor only adds to the greater conversation that is being had right now in regards to expanding the defense budget.

By: Maeve R.

Huawei’s affect on American Intelligence sharing

Due to recent allegations against the Chinese tech company Huawei, U.S. intelligence agencies have warned their German counterparts that the U.S. might have to lessen their intelligence sharing. According to the Wall Street Journal, this change is dependent on if Huawei is allowed to build a 5G mobile internet infrastructure in Germany. The U.S. ambassador, Richard Grenell, wrote in a letter to the German economics minister that a deal between the German government and Huawei would require a decreased amount of cooperation between German security agencies and their U.S. equivalents.
This is significant to the United States’s security because of Huawei’s, and consequently the Chinese governments, possible interference with a United States ally that regularly shares intelligence with the United States. If the German government does make a deal with the telecom giant, the United States could lose an important ally’s contribution to valuable intelligence. The repercussions of a deal between Huawei and the German government is unlikely to be the only case where American allies have to choose between the tech giant and American intelligence sharing.


ISIS Has Lost Territory But Still Has a Lot of Money

The islamic state has just lost its last piece of territory in Iraq and Syria, however it is still earning a lot of money and falling back on its funds gathered over the years of its existence. While the US has made a dent in ISIS sources of income from regaining oil fields, there are still many more businesses being operated by ISIS. The current climate of Iraq and Syria present an opportunity for ISIS to maintain a lower profile while still funding terrorist attacks in the Middle East and around the globe. One such possible opportunity is the rebuilding efforts of Northern Iraq which requires more than $30 Billion. The area is still rife with the influence of ISIS, couple this with past reports of Iraq and Kurdish figures having ties to terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and the rebuilding effort could result in widespread corruption. America is currently pulling most of its troops out of Iraq and Syria with some being left behind for oversight purposes, with Trump declaring victory over the organization though still expressing caution on the ground. The amount of money and monetary sources that ISIS has to fall back on should be worrying for the US as it means that ISIS has the means to survive and possibly experience a resurgence if the right action and oversights aren’t taken by both Iraq, Syria and the international community.

-Kyle Welty

Russian troops land in Venezuela

According to Reuters, two Russian Air Force planes landed in Venezuela with approximately 100 troops on board and a Russian defense official as well. A flight tracking website named Flightradar reported that an Ilyshin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane both made their way to Venezuela on Friday. The two nations conducted military exercises which indicates strengthening ties between Venezuela and the Kremlin. Currently the United States and Russia remained split on who they back in Venezuela with the U.S. being one of the first major powers to back National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president while Russia has taken a hardline stance backing Maduro who took office in 2013. With the tensions between Russia and the U.S. it begs the question how the Trump administration will react to the increased Russian military presence. With Trump’s soft spot for Russia, I would estimate that it is unlikely that the United State will move to counter Russia’s engagement. Personally I think it is in our best national interest to stay out of the conflict entirely, we don’t need more American blood and treasure lost after Iraq and Afghanistan. The one thing I can agree with Trump on is his somewhat principled stance on bringing our troops home as he did in Syria, but I am confident that our military industrial complex can find a way to spin this scenario as a threat to America’s national security interests. Time will tell how America responds to Russia’s increased military action.


– Alex

Rocket from Gaza injures 7 people, Israel responds

As I mentioned last week, Israel may have broken international law but the violence from the Palestinian side no doubt contributes to the escalating conflict as well. This was clearly displayed this morning when a rocket fired from Gaza (presumably from Hamas) and injured a family of 7. Among them was an infant, a 3 year old and 12 year old. Apparently this happened “on accident” according to  Later this evening, Israel responded by targeting Hamas’ secret military intelligence headquarters. One source says that they saw “10 rockets fire in quick succession” but then just an hour later, according to BBC news, “Hamas officials were telling news agencies that a ceasefire had been reached with the help of Egyptian mediators. Israel is yet to comment on these claims.” I certainly think it is unlikely that this will be the last of the violent exchanges between the two. These are the kind of attacks which perpetuate the tradition of violence. Meanwhile innocent civilian lives are being affected. The home attacked this morning caught on fire and I’m sure they lost many belongings in addition to being injured. It seems like neither Israel nor Palestine is completely innocent in the scenario. The actions of both seem to keep aggravating the situation further.



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