Archive for February, 2021

Biden’s pick for UN Ambassador will have to juggle containment and collaboration with China

President Joe Biden has nominated Linda- Thomas Greenfield to serve as the Ambassador to the United Nations, stated in a firm and combative tone that China is a “strategic adversary” whose disdain for democracy and human rights are a “threat to our way of life”. Once confirmed, Thomas Greenfield will have to round up global support for key global challenges at the UN, including the struggle to contain COVID and global warming. China’s backing in the issue, or at least agreement to will be critical.

Based on the previous Administration’s handling of COVID within the security council of the UN was apparently “so absurdly offensive” that the goal for Thomas Greenfield and the Biden administration to work together to lay out a sensible plan on the pandemic and “to see if the Chinese are willing to come on board”. Another key point brought forth by the article is that the US is now in the position to re-affirm itself as a leader of the world body.

The Biden Administration plans to do so by rejoining crucial UN institutions, such as the UN Human Rights Council as well as taking a leadership role in the response to COVID as well as climate change. According to the article, one of the main goals of the UN security council should be to pass a resolution with a series of “practical measures” aimed at nations to help them cope with the health crisis, much like the Ebola resolution passed in 2014. I believe that one weakness not seen in the piece is the collaborative nature of China in regards to help pass these resolutions, since they have been at the center of blame since the state covered up the initial outbreak in late 2019.

Miguel Terrazas

Militants Storm Hotel in Somali Capital and Blasts Rock Area

Militants stormed the Afrik Hotel in Somalia, the attack ending with nine people dead, including four of the militants plus dozens of injuries. The attack was believed to be enacted by the Shabab group, an affiliate of al-Qaeda and their most powerful ally in Africa. The Shabab group remains a large threat, as they continue to target civilians, government officials, and peacekeeping forces. The group has been taking advantage of the weak Somali government, moving money in the banking system and investing in local real estate, all with the millions of dollars worth of tariffs and payoffs they have collected.

The attack has only raised fears behind the growing violence in the Horn of Africa after a crucial, yet debated election and the withdrawal of seven hundred American troops under former President Trump during the last days of his term. The disagreements concerning the country’s elections have gone so far as to alarm the UN, the U.S., and the EU stating that, “the parties need to resolve the electoral implementation issues in order for credible and inclusive elections to proceed”. Fighting broke out over the election between Somali forces and forces from the southern region of Jubaland, although Somali officials blamed Kenya for the violence, resulting in severed diplomatic relations between the two countries.

There are fears that the instability caused by internal turmoil over the election and no longer having the security of American troops on top of the struggles of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic will only encourage the Shabab to increase their attacks. When it comes to U.S. foreign policy under the Biden administration, the U.S. needs to redeploy troops to help combat the Shabab in Somalia in order to protect our interests in the region while containing a rising terror group. This would reflect well on the Biden administration as they would continue to be tough on terror while remaining influential in Africa.

U.S. presence and constant pressure in Somali was one of the only stabilizing factors in the country, keeping militant groups at bay. For years the United States has displayed persistent efforts to train Somali forces in the fight against groups like Shabab and to withdraw troops and not continue securitizing Somalia would seem like a waste of time and money on the part of the U.S. With Somalia having the potential to be taken over by a now rising Shabab, they could conduct attacks in key nearby allies such as Ethiopia and Kenya, a risk that could prove dangerous to U.S. reputation.

-Marissa Fedora

Blazing Saddles… In Space

I was recently notified of a few interesting acquisitions that the US Space Force has made in the past year, including a horse and a lighthouse. Because this is a branch that is supposed to be entirely devoted to space (as it says in the name and the charter) I am left to assume that they are making the attempt to send both of these up to the moon. The hard part will be the lighthouse, after that the horse should be a piece of cake.

Jokes aside, by doing these things, they have (in my opinion) violated their charter. There is no reason for them to be spending money and time on things that the Air Force already did on the ground in the case of the horses or on acquiring a lighthouse turned museum, especially when they have exactly one soldier in space working on the ISS in a civilian capacity.

Obviously these things are much less expensive and time consuming than a base on the moon, but first mover advantage will be a requirement going forward as we expand into the solar system. A moon base would not only be able to essentially police space travel, but also be an area where we put telescopes to warn us of oncoming celestial threats due to the low atmospheric interference of the moon. Not to mention the commercial applications of building space ships in space, causing a massive reduction in the use of fuel to launch, and giving us the ability to build them much larger.

-Zachary Milnes

Children Among Civilians Killed In Northern Cameroon Attack

In a village located in Cameroon, Boko Haram terrorists attacked civilians with machetes in order to lure them into a trap where a suicide bomber blew herself up. The bomber, two Boko Haram terrorists, and twelve villagers (eight of which were children) were killed. Two villagers were also seriously wounded. Attacks like these have been occurring since 2009 in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger since Boko Haram launched an uprising in Nigeria. This terrorist organization has since stepped up its attacks and is responsible for killing over 36,000 people. While local defense forces have been fighting back, they have had little success against terrorists. Because of the nature of the conflict, I believe it is wise for the Biden administration to send in Special Forces teams to fight the Boko Haram terrorists in these countries. Special Forces groups are specifically designed to train local forces and conduct guerrilla war, which is exactly what is needed when the enemy does not wear uniforms and live amongst villagers. With this approach, I believe it is possible to end, or at the very least lessen, the terror Boko Haram inflicts on the people of these various nations. 

Hunter M

Five people killed in series of Kabul attacks

Five government officials were killed in two separate, yet coordinated attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan, the countries capital. These acts continue a series of attacks in Afghanistan where civilians have been targeted.

Armed men opened fire on a vehicle that was carrying four government employees, while another car hit an improvised explosive device, ultimately leading to the death of all five people.

The daily attacks are consistent with traditional terrorist attacks, targeting large population centers with a high density of unarmed civilians to now potentially targeting government employees.

The President of the United States Joe Biden and his administration are currently contemplating their next step towards regional peace, which includes reviewing an agreement to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, signed by the Trump administration.

Cameron Wollard

The US should condemn Sudan, not Eritrea.

On February 5, the American embassy in Eritrean claimed that there is serious miss conduct by the Eritrean forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and asked for Eritrean troops’ withdrawal. The embassy also suggested the “assault” by Eritrean soldiers to be investigated by an independent party. However, both Eritrea and Ethiopia have dismissed the existence of Eritrean troops in the Tigray region. Some local sources say the US has not responded to its allegation when asked to specify where the Eritrean army is involved.
On the other hand, Ethiopia is openly condemning the Sudanese invasion of farmland between the two countries’ borders. However, to this day, the global community, including the US, has not denounced Sudan’s attack. If the two countries go to combat, the horn will be a fertile ground for terrorists since Ethiopia has to shift its focus from fighting terrorists in the region to defending its territory. Hence, the Biden administration must not take any longer to condemn Sudan’s aggression rather than making unverified remarks on Eritrean involvement in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

Adonay T.

Conflict in Libya gets messier

In this recent article, a UN report has stated that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has established contact with armed Sudanese groups fighting in the already messy proxy war in Libya on the side of Khalifa Haftar. This comes after a direct violation of a UN arms embargo after increasing deliveries of weapons to Haftar, who ended his unsuccessful 14-month assault on the capital of Tripoli. What can be made of this sudden contact from the country to these armed groups? According to the article, this is being seen as a sign of the country’s appetite for a more hands-on role in the conflict as well as a sign of growing mistrust of the general’s capabilities.

The UAE is just one of the several countries that have plunged some type of resource into this massive proxy war, throwing common allies against each other. France, Egypt and Russia (through the Wagner mercenary group) have all thrown their support to Haftar and his Libyan National Army. Turkey, Italy, and Qatar have provided military backing to the UN- backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. To complicate matters even more is the presence of militias from Sudan, Chad and Syria. Another report form the US Department of Defense inspector general for counterterrorism operations in Africa last year determined that the UAE was possibly helping to fund the activities of the mercenary group, Wagner, in Libya.

I believe that one of the major takeaways from this piece is to not ramp up US intervention. Although the US is seen to take somewhat of a more resilient role in the region with solely drone strikes, it would be unwise to ramp up further intervention since it is already a messy proxy war.

-Miguel Terrazas

Navalny Is Not The Only Reason For The Protests

Protests regarding the incarceration of Alexei Navalny have run rampant through the streets of Russia for the last couple of weeks now, however, the protests are not just about Navalny. The economic situation in Russia has continued to get worse due to the pandemic, and the people are not happy. The government support during this pandemic has also been minimal, along with the highest unemployment rate since 2012. Navalny was just the catalyst to a much larger issue within Russia, and I think the people are starting to see that. The support for Putin and his party has fallen to an all time low of 30%, and is now sitting at 31%. Putin has put into place multiple constitutional amendments that some people say are fraudulent. These amendments could possibly keep Putin in power until 2036, which would make him president for 36 years. In my opinion, Russia needs someone else in power. The more time Putin spends in office controlling the country, the more opportunity he has to create more corruption. By removing him from office it may bring an opportunity for new ideas, and possibly create a better economy for Russia.

Olivia S.

On the Protection of our Satellites

One of the many challenges that every country (including the U.S) must face as we expand our infrastructure out into space is the protection of our valuable satellites. We use satellites for a large array of things such as: communications, GPS, television, reconnaissance, weather, missile detection, and (if the Starlink project succeeds) internet.

According to this article on the major challenges facing the incoming presidential administration, our ability to protect these satellites is severely lacking. During the term of former President Trump, the US Space Force was created specifically to alleviate this issue (though there has been criticism that they are just doing the same thing that the Air Force did) and President Biden has pledged to keep them around for the time being, though they may not get the same political favoritism that President Trump was willing to shower them with.

If an adversary were to remove, destroy, or take over some of our important satellites, they would gain a massive advantage over us in any conflict. And as we further allow the commercialization of space, there will be more satellites which need to be protected. It will be interesting to see how the National Security Council combats this issue, but I do know that they will be watching it with great interest.

-Zachary Milnes

Possible Threats from North Korea amid Global Pandemic

A report from last month asserts that nuclear threat is not the only problem the Biden administration will face in terms of relations with North Korea. It states that the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggling North Korean economy are what really stands in the way of the new administration. Although North Korea has reported no COVID-19 cases in their country, there is fear that this is inaccurate and with their “virtually non-existent public health infrastructure” this could mean a huge global spike in cases, even if they may go unreported. This in turn could create another humanitarian crisis in North Korea with the U.S. attempting to aid the issue. The Biden administration, in my opinion, only has one option in this circumstance and what needs to be done is the development of better relations with North Korea in order to ascertain the full extent of the threat level of the pandemic in their country. North Korea also shut down its borders amid the pandemic crisis, resulting in even more restrictions and economic issues than what had already been occurring before. To releive the economic and humanitarian issues possibly occurring the Biden administration must get involved.

Erin M.

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