Archive for September, 2019

From Hollywood to Darfur

An investigative report recently published by The Sentry exposed a South Sudanese oil consortium’s involvement with direct financing of militias accused of war crimes and atrocities. The group, Dar Petroleum Operating Company, is made up of multiple different Chinese and Malaysian owned/operated oil companies. The state’s oil fields have been a source of civil war financing for years, and all of the companies have large stakes in the business at this point. This report shows the major role of international players in contributing to the conflict and unrest in the country, all to attain a profit from the oil industry. Stopping the war and coming to a peace agreement has proved to be difficult, with a majority of the blame being placed upon internal disagreement and lack of compromise. What this report emphasizes however, is the reality of external actors playing a major role. With so many outside interests who have so much to lose, it is no wonder that agreements have been few and far between.

Something that intrigued me about this report was the fact that an American actor is a major player in its global exposure. George Clooney is the co-founder of The Sentry- an investigative and policy team whose goal is to keep those who are benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. This group is focused in Central and East Africa due to the high concentration of war and conflict. Clooney is clearly a huge part of the organization, and stated that his role was to “shine a spotlight on the overlooked involvement of international players that have sustained the war”. While his influence may seem trivial, it begs to question what sort of impact could be made in international affairs and conflict resolution by the involvement of modern day icons. Could it potentially make a bigger splash, getting otherwise apathetic people to become concerned and active? Such a question may not be on important policy agendas, but as a hypothetical question I believe it is worth pondering.

Julia G.

Tshisekedi Speaks at the U.N.

Image result for drc president un

The DRC’s president, Félix Tshisekedi, got an opportunity to speak for his first time at the U.N. General Assembly. While there, he spoke of the need for more African leadership, including the possible addition of an African country on the U.N. Security Council. Additionally, he spoke of several problems facing the country including the current Ebola crisis and ongoing crisis. I have tow takeaways from this.

First, I think the idea of an African country on the U.N. Security Council is an interesting idea. While it is true that Africa does face many destabilizing challenges, much of the developed world has been wary of her involvement in world leadership. While President Tshisekedi has offered his country as an example of a country that is improving, I think it would not make sense for him to join the council, given that his country has been mired by corruption allegations.

Second, I think the fact that the DRC made such a statement to the U.N. is important. Given that their country does face a multitude of challenges, it makes sense that Tshisekedi would request assistance from the international community as a whole. Given the country’s trouble with corruption and democratic concerns, it will be interesting to see if any countries move to act more in the region in the coming months.

John H.

Smallpox and Monkeypox Vaccinations

The Jynneos Smallpox and Monkeypox Vaccine, manufactured by Bavarian Nordic, is the first live, non-replicating vaccine to prevent smallpox and the only vaccine for the prevention of monkeypox. While smallpox is no longer a global threat, it killed approximately 300 million people in the 20th century. Modern generations have no immunity and the threat of a return, either through laboratory accident, bioterrorism, or climate change causing frozen strains of the virus to become active, is why research into combating the virus has continued. Monkeypox, while less deadly than smallpox, is still an active threat in several regions around the world.

The Jynneos Vaccine is currently only available for those at high risk for exposure to smallpox or monkeypox. While the likelihood of an outbreak of either disease is small, production of the vaccine should continue and increase. The administration should first ensure that military personnel are vaccinated, and that the vaccine is available for humanitarian aid workers. The administration should also work with international organizations, such as the WHO to see that populations that have had monkeypox outbreaks are also vaccinated. After those necessary measures are taken, the vaccine should begin to be made more widely available for the public.


US Navy Not Prepared To Take On Iran

For many years, the United States has had the ability to project its power within the Middle East through their carrier strike groups. Today that is uncertain and would no longer create a response from an adversary. The biggest technological advantage the United States Navy has toward not just Iran but any country has been erased as other countries have up-started their own defense capabilities. The development of weapons technologies that the U.S. Navy has had a comfortable time owning  has created a security issue for there to be operations near coastlines as well as carriers being at risk when moving into uncharted waters.

The Trump administration is now limited when it comes to the particular set of actions that it can take with regards to Iran. Whether that be through surface warships, submarines with the capabilities to launch long-range cruise missiles or utilizing B-52 bombers. The strong Naval power that America has had for decades is now all of a sudden non-existent. U.S. carriers are more reluctant at being attacked than in previous years, setting up an unprecedented challenge when confronting the Iranian governments acts of aggression.


Theo S.

Economy on Ice

A 315 billion ton iceberg has split from the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica. This is the largest iceberg to form from the continent since the early 1960s, however scientists do not currently believe this event to be directly related to climate change. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding this iceberg’s formation, it still represents a significant risk that will only increase as climate change progresses.

As global temperatures rise, increasing numbers of icebergs will be released. These icebergs not only contribute to rising sea levels, but they also pose a significant threat to international shipping lanes. International shipping is the backbone of the global economy, and any disruptions can have far reaching consequences. Economic disruption is but one potential outcome of unmitigated climate change, and these icebergs threaten more than just international trade. Naval forces will need to track and plan for iceberg movements when conducting military exercises or when engaging in potential conflicts.

-Nick C.

The effort to Oust Netanyahu

With the deadlock between the center left and center right parties in Israel, the Joint list, a coalition of Palestinian parties, clarified their previous declaration that they wouldn’t join Zionist parties in a coalition. Showing their desire to see Netanyahu ousted from office the parties stated that they would provide confidence and supply to a coalition lead by the centrist Blue and White coalition. The party proposed a coalition between the Blue and Whites, two small left wing parties, and the far right religious parties. Together this coalition would have 60 votes, 61 seats are needed to form a government.

In a rare, historic move the Joint List offered support to prop the government up over the 61 seat threshold. However this would unlikely to be a tenable solution. The religious parties support a one-state solution and are too far apart policy wise from left wing parties, leaving the likelihood of the government collapsing very high. Further the Joint list swore it would topple the government if conflict occurred in the Gaza Strip. Given the violent, anti-semetic nature of Hamas conflict is more than likely. Even if the alliance was as informal as providing confidence and supply, an alliance with the Joint List would weaken Israel and hinder its ability to respond to urgent security threats.

John Flood

Why Does North Korea Need Cryptocurrency?

North Korea’s desire for cryptocurrency could stem anywhere from finding a way around the international sanctions posed, supporting local hacker groups, or to an alternate way of funding nuclear weapons. This becomes a problem for the U.S. and our allies because cryptocurrency, like most things cyber related, are harder to trace, can be quickly and easily traded, and are not government regulated. If we can not find the source of the cryptocurrency, especially in the small time frame it takes for a transaction to occur, we could be in trouble. 

North Korea has a typically lower GDP, and there is no doubt they will do practically anything for financial gain, and in turn, economic strength. If North Korea’s economy becomes stronger because of this, our sanctions will turn out to be even less effective than they already are. North Korea claims to have all the necessary resources to implement cryptocurrency so now it’s just a matter of how soon it will start and what the results will be.


Defense Before the UN

Saturday, before the UN General Assembly Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. defended President Duterte’s drug campaign. He argued that while multilateralism is coming to an end “strong governments are better because they get things done.” Locsin’s talk before the UN comes amid the investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs. According to Locsin, the UN can not simply interfere in domestic affairs of the state because “a state’s defining duty is to protect its population against harm by any means that are effective to that purpose.”

In the United States there are checks and balances whereas the UN is the checks and balances of the world. Duterte’s campaign has invoked human rights concerns as the number of lives lost continues to increase. The only way that peace and cooperation can continue between the UN members is if Duterte allows for an investigation instead of roadblocking the UN. They have urged the country to coopoerate on the probe, but have been met with resistance. This indicates to me that there is something that Duterte isn’t telling the UN and that he doesn’t want them to find out. If the Philippines keeps up with their attitiude towards the UN investigation, I wonder what that will mean for the UN/Philippines relationship moving forward.


Over 3000 troops begin exercise Silver Arrow in Latvia

Twelve NATO member nations have sent 3000 troops and over 200 vehicles to participate in joint exercise Silver Arrow in Latvia. The week long exercise focuses on increasing the operational readiness of one of the four NATO battle groups in the region. The force is made up primarily of a Latvian mechanized infantry brigade, also included with the force are , Joint Terminal Attack Controllers who specialize in directing airstrikes from the ground. Supporting exercise Silver Arrow were two Canadian CF-18 fighter aircraft.

What is notable about this exercise is that the United States is absent from the list of participating nations (Albania, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain). This is not due to our lack of involvement or stepping back from NATO but merely due to the fact that the US has the commanding role in a different NATO battle group. Multi national exercises are important for keeping NATO ties close and ensure that if conflict occurs there is synergy.
-Reavis L.

US in Syria, UN on Syrian Constitution: Is Syria in Control?

After eight-years, the Syrian civil war continues. The United States and Turkey are still in the state to assist the Kurd-ish groups. There should be no mistake made the Syrian government is adamant that any foreign forces on Syrian soil need to leave. These occupations are interfering with internal relations and moves to conclude the war.

While the US is involving itself on the ground, the UN has inserted itself in the legal side of the situation. The UN has created regulations for the new Syrian constitution. This has been received by the Syrian government about as well as the ground occupations. The consistent intervention of foreign power in every element of Syrian life infringe on the countries sovereignty but how does this affect their security.

At an extremely vulnerable state, Syria is fighting for control over itself. This begs a question of how to regain security when it is lost entirely. The process of regrowth commonly requires foreign investment, but with the United States supporting the Kurds they will not help the opposition to regrow the country. This will also prevent other Western powers from involving themselves; because any funding toward the non-US side will face retaliation by the United States. How does a country regain security when a regional hegemon is preventing it? Will the UN step in to push out other actors? If not, is Syria doomed to failure unless the US withdraws?


Rachel M

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