Archive for November, 2019

Too Much Aid?

Continuing down the road of the South Sudanese humanitarian crisis, I turn my head this week to the area of international assistance. From the beginning (2011), South Sudan has been receiving aid from a large collection of countries. The United States alone, being the biggest donor, has poured over 9 billion dollars into the struggling state. This money hypothetically goes toward food for the millions who are starving, water for those without access, and other essential materials. Yet, despite the substantial aid, the country is seeing minimal improvements. The “government” is still at a stalemate and they show no intention of directing their attention toward the people. Their main interest lies in coming to a power-sharing agreement which, while important, is leaving the vast majority in critical. Government officials have blatantly said that while receiving international aid, they have a much smaller need to address the problems themselves. As long as someone is doing it, everything is fine! This raises the question of what, if anything, the international community (namely the U.S.) should do in response. Should they continue supplying aid? If they stopped, what would the repercussions be? Would the government direct resources to help the people in time, or would a multitude of lives be lost? Would this decision spur the peace process? Are the costs worth the reward? It is a difficult decision and a difficult topic, but one worth considering.

-Julia G.

Israel refuses escalation

A large barrage of missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip in to Israel on Friday night. It is believe that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group is to blame for the recent attacks. In an effort to push Hamas to rein in Islamic Jihad Israel launched a series of targeted but limited strikes. The limited scope of these strikes shows Israels determination to not escalate the conflict to an even higher degree. At the same time Israel has seen increased tension with Hezbollah as of late. The desire to not get involved in a two front war is a possible motivating factor for Israel as is the current lack of an official government after election deadlocks. The move not to escalate the conflict even further is at present advantageous to both Israel and the United States. Further if Israel can get Hamas to rein in Islamic Jihad it would be mutually beneficial for both parties.


John F.

U.S. Can Run, but Cannot Hide from North Korea

Relocation to a new army base, Camp Humphreys, located 40 miles south of Seoul, raises questions whether being further away from North Korea is better, or worse, for the U.S. One of the major problems is the DMZ. The new base is further from their training camps near the demilitarized zone, which forces would still need to travel to, which raises more concerns. Communication between U.S. and South Koreans commanders there will also be interrupted, especially face-to-face interaction, which is important and better than phone conversations.

Moving the base does not seem like a good move on the U.S. part; it was costly ($11 billion), disrupts patterns, requires new training, further away from important locations and people in Seoul, but most importantly, it shows Kim Jong Un that we are afraid. North Korea seems to be aware of the move and the vulnerabilities that may arise, calling it a “fat target.” We know that North Korea is increasing testing, and moving 40 miles may put us out of some of the current short-range missiles capabilities, but the 300 mm multiple rocket launcher and KN-23 short-range ballistic missile claim that they can reach the new base at Camp Humphreys. As the camp is bigger, the U.S. would be able to occupy more forces along the peninsula, and perceivably for a long period of time, which scares Kim Jong Un.


US and Norway Keep Watch over Russia

Just north of the Norwegian Island of Vardo is a watchtower peering over the Russian Arctic and on Vardo is a US-funded military surveillance radar system both set up to track Russia developments in the Arctic. Russia has been improving and expanding their military in the region raising worries for the other seven nations that claim possessions in the Arctic. This moved NATO to reestablish watch over the region but is trying to limit US boots on the ground in aims to minimize the chances of pushing Russia toward aggression.

In the wake of climate change, and melting glaciers, the Arctic is becoming a new opportunity from military expansion for many countries.  The chances of an artic Arms Race are real and threatening to all groups involved. Furthermore, the potential increase in Russian power as they are able to utilize more of their land should be a major concern of adversaries, such as the United States. As a new battlefield is developed the other defensive nations must develop their weapons and determine how to defend such a new and uncharted terrain.

Rachel M

Russian Trolls in Chile

According to the U.S. Department of State, American intelligence has seen indications of “Russian influence” in Chile in its time of unrest. Thursday marked two weeks of riots and protests against the administration of Sebastian Pinera. According to a senior State Department official, U.S. intelligence has seen a clear abuse of social media ad trolling, with all signs pointing to Russia as the perpetrator. Russia has stated that it does not pry into the internal affairs of other countries, and the Chilean government has yet to comment on the issue.

Once again Russia is taking advantage of a country in a volatile situation. Chile has been in utter chaos for two weeks over rightist leader Pinera, which Russia viewed as its in. This situation, however, compared to that of Syria may be more of a concern for United States given sphere of influence in the Latin-American region. After all, these countries are right in our backyard.

-Eva W.

Back-to-Back Disease Outbreak in the Philippines

Since the start of the year, the Philippines has seen a spike in disease outbreaks of measles (560 deaths), dengue (1300 deaths), and polio. Diseases that were once thought to be eradicated in the region. Residents of the Philippines are concerned because Duterte and the executive branch have not been as concerned as the Department of Health. Experts are saying the reason for these outbreaks is due to falling immunization rates and anti-vaccine sentiments. Wijdan Mandani, director of the health and nutrition for United Nations Population Fund says that if action is not taken now and if they don’t curb the outbreaks the Philippines will expect to see new outbreaks every 3-4 years. It does not help that the health department’s budget is going to be cut by 170 million next year.

I think the biggest problem for the Philippines is that they aren’t making vaccines mandatory like they do in other countries such as the US. There is also the fact that hygiene and sanitation are not high priorities in the Philippines. If something is not done soon, I would say we could be seeing more problems popping up in the region and the recent outbreaks are causing fear and paranoia in the population which will only contribute to other problems. To not take the health concerns of the people is serving as a wake-up call to the government as it’s a chance for the deficiencies in the public health care system to be addressed.


President reveals details of al-Baghdadi raid, maybe too much details

Last Sunday, the president issued a televised news conference in which he went over some of the operational details of the raid on the operational and spiritual leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some of details that the president talked about were the number of helicopters used, the route through which they travelled, how long the special ops were on the ground as well as other details. While he was forthcoming on a lot of things, he was vague on great many things including the type of helicopter used. Yet, he was criticized by many in the military and in national security circles as was President Obama when his White House revealed operational details about the bin Laden raid.

The president and his successors should be careful about what is revealed after future raids. It should be recommended that the president say nothing more than who was captured or killed in future operations. That would be the best way to avoid revealing any details as well as any criticism from military and national security circles.
Kuljeet S.

The Chinese Communist Party sends out big signals – in vague terminology

A four-day plenum session in the Chinese capital this week clearly had the Hong Kong political crisis way up on its agenda. They were looking to “perfect” the system of appointing and replacing Hong Kong’s leader. What does that mean?

The Chief Executive is currently selected by a committee stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists; protestors are calling instead for direct elections to choose the city’s leader. There’s nothing to indicate that any changes would be moving in the direction which activists want but, in truth, we simply don’t know and the Party seems to like it that way.
The communique also pledged to establish “a legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security” in Hong Kong.
Analysts think this could mean the central government introducing national security laws which can be imposed on Hong Kong from Beijing but – again – who knows?

In my view, Beijing is attempting to put out the fire that is the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong without making any concessions to weaken its control over Hong Kong. The international view of Chinese regional power is in no means under threat. However I believe that if the Chinese government turns to widespread state violence in Hong Kong, the international consensus could change and international norms could force nations to intervene.



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