Archive for April, 2021

How has covid-19 affected global defense spending?

This article compiles data that concludes COVID19 actually had a very small effect on growing military budgets. Despite a 4.4% global decrease in GDP in 2020, total military spending worldwide increased by 2.6% (according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). The top 15 countries account for 81% of the total with the US, China, and India at the forefront. The US’s most recent widely thought security threats remain to be China and Russia, China has been increasing its defense spending annually for the past three decades mostly towards establishing a power dynamic in the Asia Pacific, and India’s spending increase is largely attributed to its continuing conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir and border conflicts with China. Even though COVID19 played a massive role in an economic recession in the past year, very few countries military spending changed to reflect the situation. Russia and Brazil did increase military spending but not as much as initially planned.

Virginia R.

https://www.defenseworld.net/news/29434/Worldwide_Military_Spending_Grew_2_6__in_2020_Despite_4_4__COVID_led_Decrease_in_Global_GDP#.YIeHUxNKhE4

Biden’s Plan to End Afghanistan War Gives Some Detainees Hope for Release

Lawyers for two Guantanamo Bay detainees have began arguing that President Biden’s “end” to the war in Afghanistan means their clients can no longer legally be detained and can return to their home country. Granted, the circumstances for the latter of these two detainments seem to be unclear. Regardless, this marks the beginning of the legal ramifications of President Biden’s symbolic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I can’t stress the word “symbolic” enough. A Pentagon spokesperson stated: “We are still going to maintain counterterrorism capabilities in the region,” he said. “And we will still be able to strike at terrorist threats in Afghanistan even if we don’t have boots on the ground.” Additionally, I am familiar with people who are slated to deploy to Afghanistan later this year. In short, I don’t believe that this is the end of “the forever war” nor do I think it anything more than a bipartisan political scheme to show the American people something is being done in Afghanistan. I believe war will continue through different means, and eventually the U.S. will return, if we ever leave at all. As for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, I believe the best solution is to deem the war ongoing and remove any legal argument from their lawyers arsenal. Entertaining legal disputes with even two terrorists will open the flood gates for however 50+ remain.

Cameron W

 

Republican Party is a threat to American democracy… But why?

In a new article from the Atlantic writer Peter Wehner sets a concise argument stating that, in its current form, the Republican Party is a omnipresent threat to American democracy due to its refusal to distance itself from the rhetoric and posturing that Trump brought to the party. It’s an interesting read and worth the time but I want to take time to explore why exactly the Republican Party with its members promoting the deep state and other conspiracy theories is such a threat in the first place. 

I believe that it’s because, unlike the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is recognizing that something is wrong in the United States. That’s not to say that they’re anywhere near right about what’s wrong but they are saying “yes, there is something wrong.” Their accuracy of course ends when they start talking about a secret Cabal of Children eating satanists (ie Qanon) but the Democratic Party, for the most part says that there everything is smooth sailing and besides some minor reforms everything is ok. 

This is despite growing wealth inequality, an austerity state that is only increasing, an unsolved climate crisis and more and more economic opportunities for the average person disappearing. To truly combat the rise of the far-right and threats to our democracy other major players need to admit that there is something wrong in the United States that needs to be addressed.

– Gabriel Matteson 

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/gop-grave-threat-american-democracy/618693/

Will Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption be Deemed an “Extremist Group”?

On Monday, Russian authorities ordered offices of Alexei Navalny, President Putin’s biggest critic, to stop all activity as they wait for a decision to be made on wether or not they should be outlawed as an extremest group. Although the decision has not been made yet, Navalny and his team have been suspended from “spreading information in the media, taking part in elections, using banks or organizing public events.” If they are found as and extremist group, Navalny, his staff, and supporters that were arrested in previous protests will be at risk of criminal persecution. Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, called this “one of the most serious blows for the rights to freedom of expression and association in Russia’s post-Soviet history.” In my opinion, Zviagina is completely on the right track. By silencing the opposing voices, corruption will continue to happen and possibly even worsen. President Biden has called for the release of Navalny in recent months, however, as we can see nothing has come of it. Although I do think the Biden administration should continue to show their support for Navalny, it is hard to say that anything they do will change the trajectory of what the Russian administration is going to do.

Olivia S.

https://apnews.com/article/moscow-russia-arrests-europe-b4c5e9681ca9c9fc1dd04b75a8cbbf0a

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/russia-suspends-activities-alexei-navalny-opposition-movement-organisation

The UN Security Council has issued a statement on Ethiopia.

On April 22, the United Nations Security Council met to address the crisis in Ethiopia, and this time a statement was released. The UN Security Council expresses its concern in the statement regarding allegations of human rights violations in the Tigray region. In addition, the Security Council praised Ethiopia’s efforts to address the humanitarian crisis, as well as its pledge to expand humanitarian access to NGOs. In addition, the security council stated that the humanitarian organization must follow international law and operate with humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. Finally, the security affirmed its strong commitment to Ethiopia’s sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, and unity.

 

Adonay Teklu

 

https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sc14501.doc.htm

 

 

Biden’s Plan to End Afghanistan War Gives Some Detainees Hope for Release

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/us/politics/afghanistan-war-guantanamo-prison.html

President Biden has declared he wants to end the war in Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year. In an interview, Biden has said he intends to close the Guantanamo Bay prison opened in 2002, but it’s unclear what will happen to the detainees held there. Traditionally, when conflicts end, wartime detainees are sent back to their home countries. In the case of Guantanamo Bay, detainees were allowed to be held indefinitely and without trial as long as they received a fair hearing. This option was a humanitarian alternative to killing these captives. The problem is that no one thought the war in Afghanistan would turn into a “forever war”, and currently the legal basis could be questionable if the U.S. will no longer be involved in active combat in Afghanistan. Lawyers for two of the forty remaining prisoners have claimed the authority to detain their clients is no longer legal. One of these two detainees is Khalid Qassim from Yemen, who was an al-Qaeda trainee. The other is Asadullah Haroon Gul from Afghanistan who is affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Personally I don’t think it is a good idea for the Biden administration to close and empty out Guantanamo. I think that of the forty detainees left there are still some very dangerous people that should not be released and keeping the prison open would allow for more potentially extreme terrorists of today to be captured and placed there. Releasing potentially high ranking or respected al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists back to their home countries sounds like a terrorists’ dream. They will most likely run right back to their organization, making U.S. efforts counterproductive.

-Marissa Fedora

Another possible famine and economic crisis headed to North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for waging another “arduous march” to fight severe economic difficulties. He is comparing the difficult times North Korea is now facing to that of the 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. Kim had previously said his country faces the “worst-ever” economic situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S.-led sanctions, and heavy flooding last summer. While it has been known that North Korea has been struggling as of late, it is the first time he publicly drew a parallel with the deadly famine. For the United States, this could mean possible humanitarian intervention. While relations with North Korea are strained, I do not believe Biden wants to see another humanitarian crisis occur there. We will see what the future holds and if their economic situation is as severe as Kim says it is, and if there will be anything the U.S. wants to or will do about it.

Erin M.

https://apnews.com/article/pandemics-south-korea-north-korea-coronavirus-pandemic-famine-629aa27f7e5845659ab9424499d6cba0

Tensions in East Jerusalem Cause Violence

Since the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, tensions have been rising between the Jews and the Arabs in East Jerusalem. The city is under Israeli control but Palestinians claim a right to it as well. The violence broke out Thursday night when Palestinians gathered around Damascus Gate to protest the closing of a plaza in front of the gate and, separately, Jewish extremists marching towards them chanting “Death to Arabs!” Both protests resulted in clashes with police and ended with 105 people injured and 50 arrested.

An interesting aspect to this event was the inflammation of tensions over social media, particularly TikTok. There are videos of Jews assaulting Arabs and Arabs assaulting Jews, and it’s making the whole situation worse. The TikToks gave a reason for the Jewish extremist group, Lehava, to hold their Thursday protest. It also makes it harder from an outside perspective to see who is in the right here, given that both sides seem to be behaving poorly. Obviously in reality the situation is much more complicated than those videos, but if that’s what the average person sees then widespread support will be extremely mixed.

Eleanor Haas

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-56854275

https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/23/middleeast/jerusalem-clashes-injured-intl/index.html

Merkel’s contender wants a tougher stance on China and Russia

Annalena Baerbock, the leading contender to replace Angela Merkel in Germany’s upcoming election, has called for “dialogue and toughness” when it comes to the issue of defending democratic issues and human rights. Baerbock called for the EU to use it’s economic might to block Chinese goods made with forced labor and avoid communication technologies that endanger European Security. She stated in a recent interview that “we are currently in a competition between systems: authoritarian powers versus liberal democracies” and even went on to state that China’s investment in infrastructure and energy grids in Central Asia to Europe is “brutal power politics”. Baerbock also stated that the European Union must act more accordingly to it’s own values, such as using a more recent investment accord between Beijing and Brussels to address more strongly the issue of China putting its Uyghur minority into forced labor.

How should the Biden administration react to Germany taking a tougher stance on China? If Annalena Baerbock is elected as Germany’s new chancellor, there is a good chance that she will follow on her word to take a tougher stance on Beijing. That being said, the Biden Administration should follow suit and also take a tougher stance on China to support their NATO ally by continuing to call China out on their human rights abuses and not allowing communication technologies, like Huawei, to develop in the US as it is a national security interest.

Miguel Terrazas

https://apnews.com/article/europe-angela-merkel-asia-russia-environment-e8b9431406e7470ecf9fcdde4a0a7aff

 

White House can’t guarantee Afghanistan’s post- pullout future

On Sunday, a White House official said that no one can guarantee the future of Afghanistan after U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. He further emphasized that the U.S. will stay focused on terrorist threats emerging from the country.

Last week, President Biden announced all troops will be leaving Afghanistan by 9/11/21. When WH National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was asked about the likelihood of the Iraq situation repeating in Afghanistan, he responded with:

“I can’t make any guarantees about what will happen inside the country. No one can.” He also added that President Biden has no intention on sending troops back to Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also stated that the countries security forces are capable of defending the country without the support of foreign nations.

Unfortunately, I see almost no scenario where Afghanistan is able to win the power struggle against the Taliban, and the U.S. will have to physically return to Afghanistan to deter terrorist threats from Afghanistan again.

Cameron W

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