Archive for April, 2021

Does US still lead in Science & Technology?

This article points out that right now it remains questionable whether the US leads in science and technological fields like “artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, quantum computing and advanced manufacturing.” China’s recent “predatory”-like initiative towards S&T and even North Korea’s advancements in its nuclear and missile capabilities suggest that the US’s sanction and export control-based defense will no longer cut it. The solution may lie in regaining US predominance in S&T. The article goes on to discuss how, since the Cold War, the nature of S&T has changed so that industry takes priority over security. The private sector spends double the amount on S&T than the government. Some policy changes have been made recently including some members of Congress introducing the Endless Frontier Act that would add a directorate to the National Science Foundation specifically for funding in AI research. Thinktanks have proposed the formation of an international body to directly oppose China’s technological goals. Also, Biden’s recent orders to put more funding towards research and development. But this article suggests these actions alone don’t represent enough of a change in the way the US has viewed the importance of S&T in recent years. Despite large increases in funding as a whole “research and development as a percent of the federal budget has gone down from almost 12 percent in the mid-1960s to less than 3 percent in 2019.”

Virginia R.

https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/548902-building-back-better-requires-a-new-approach-to-us-science-and

Buying Military Weapons

In the Judiciary and Organic Laws committee meeting at the Legislative Yuan today, Li Shih-Chiang (李世強), director of the Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) Department of Strategic Planning has stated that Taiwan is looking to buy AGM-158 missile from the United States.  The AGM-158 missile(JASSM) is an air-to-ground missile that has a range of more than 370 kilometers. According to Lockheed Martin ” It is designed to “destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable target”. The AGM-158 is the only weapon that remines on Taiwan’s list of arms, but the Biden administration has yet to approve the sale, but has approved the sale of M109 to Taiwan. It seems that Taiwan is building its military and I believe the want of having AGM-158 missiles are due to China constantly flying its military planes over Taiwan’s air zone.

Cnmoh

https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4181034

Do Biden’s Sanctions on Russia Mean Anything?

The Biden administration has put another round of sanctions on Russia as of last Wednesday. This coming Wednesday, there is said to be protests throughout the streets in support of Alexei Navalny’s third week of his hunger strike. Navalny was transferred from prison to a nearby hospital where he reportedly is near death. Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, has told CNN that there will be further consequences should Navalny’s die from the lack of medical attention that has been given to him. In my opinion, the Biden administration is on the right track with these sanctions and possible consequences, however, it is a lot easier said than done. Previous administrations such as the Obama and Trump administrations have yet to put a stop to Russia’s aggressive behavior, so who is to say the President Biden’s will stop it? Biden will need to respond with very harsh consequences if there is any hope in stopping this behavior.

Olivia S.

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/alexei-navalny-danger-do-biden-s-russia-sanctions-mean-anything-ncna1264540

Will Afghanistan Become a Terrorist Safe Haven Once Again?

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/us/politics/afghanistan-terrorism-threat.html?searchResultPosition=1

President Biden has announced his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan but the question remains, will terrorism re-emerge from Afghanistan and threaten the U.S.? Experts claim the threat won’t be large right away but there is potential for it to grow in the long run to the point the U.S. would be forced to possibly re-enter Afghanistan. Intelligence officials predict the Taliban will gain more territory, the Afghan government will struggle, and a peace deal is unlikely. It is believed that in terms of other terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, there is no immediate threat of potential strikes towards the U.S. from Afghanistan because they remain weak inside the country.

The current relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban also remains unpredictable. Before 9/11 the Taliban offered safe haven to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, then in 2020 as part of the peace deal with the U.S., the Taliban was supposed to drop all ties with other terrorist groups (al-Qaeda) and prevent their operations within Afghanistan. There have been reports the  Taliban have already violated this agreement, allowing al-Qaeda to conduct training exercises within the country. It’s unpredictable if and how quickly al-Qaeda could bounce back in Afghanistan, but if they are maintaining somewhat friendly relations with the Taliban this could be more quickly than expected.

I think it is vital for the Biden administration focus and have a plan for addressing this issue, especially with their decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. This could be a major opportunity for the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda if they can bounce back, because with no American presence in the country, they basically have free reign. I think it is also very dangerous to underestimate a resurgence of al-Qaeda because if the U.S. is no longer in Afghanistan, it will be harder to collect intelligence and conduct counterterrorism operations. This will make it extremely difficult to determine al-Qaeda’s true capabilities and could catch the U.S. by surprise.

-Marissa Fedora

Tensions rising between the two Koreas

South Korea has lived in constant fear of the threat of North Korea and its nuclear weapons. The two Koreas have long been locked in a perpetual arms race. Pyongyang’s growing nuclear capabilities, along with the fear of a withdrawal of American troops from South Korea under President Trump, added to these tensions. It is not surprising that South Korea has been increasing its military spending and development. For the United States, this military development on the side of South Korea might be positive, as South Korea is a close ally and has worked with the United States to try to ease the fear of nuclear war. On the other hand, South Korea increasing military spending has shown to influence the North to ramp up its military development as well. As tensions rise, more and more pressure is placed not only on the Koreas but the United States, to try to discover a solution.

Afghanis fear repeat of Taliban atrocities after US withdrawal

The Taliban’s 1999 invasion of the Shomali plain, which stretches from Kabul to Bagram, still lingers on the mind of Afghanis that had to live through that perilous day. Within days, the militants had killed countless people, scorched the rich farming land, destroyed tens of thousands of houses, and blew up water irrigation systems. To this day, the ruins serve as a grim reminder of the war in the 90s. According to Patricia Gossman, a Human Rights Watch Associate, Asia director said that “Atrocities like Shomali were a regular feature of the war in the 1990s. A vast international presence prevented some but not all such killings in the past 20 years… If there is no settlement and the war continues, which unfortunately seems likely, I am afraid civilians will continue to bear the brunt of the war and continue to be the victims of atrocities.”

The Taliban militants warned in a statement that “opens the way … to take very necessary countermeasures, hence the American side will be held accountable for all future consequences and not the Islamic Emirate” in response to the delayed US withdrawal. Even more so, in the US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment warned that the Taliban are confident that they can achieve military victory and are likely to make gains in the battlefield, and also stated that the Afghanistan government will struggle to hold them at bay once the coalition forces leave.

How should the Biden administration respond to such a dilemma? It goes back to our whole discussion in class the other day about the definition of a successful military occupation. Once the US withdraws, the Taliban, a common threat perceived both by the people and the occupiers, has incentive to take over a weak Afghan government being left behind. This could be considered a failure since the tentative withdrawal date was already pushed back by the Biden administration and historically speaking, Afghanistan is now the longest conflict the US has been involved in. The overall cost of the occupation has been too great, which was another aspect of a failed occupation, and the American public doesn’t see the point of being over there any longer. It’s a lose- lose situation on all ends.

Miguel Terrazas

Afghans Haven’t Forgotten Taliban Atrocities

Russia is increasing its influence on the horn of Africa.

Russia’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Evgeny Terekhin, had an interview with local media. In his interview, he asserted Russia will help Ethiopia to use nuclear energy to expedite its agricultural production and healthcare industry. He added Russia will support Ethiopia’s plan to access modern technology. Ambassador Terekhin also explained Ethiopia’s utilizing nuclear power plan would also positively impact the entire horn of Africa.
It seems like as the west turns its back on Ethiopia, Russia appears to be seizing the opportunity to expand its presence in the region.

Adonay

Russia backs Ethiopia’s nuclear applications in agriculture, healthcare

US House Republicans Plan To Create New Caucus With Far-right Underpinnings

Multiple House of Representatives Republicans plan on releasing an announcement soon about the creation of an “America First” Caucus that plans on promoting the policies of the Trump presidency and reestablishing “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions. ” (1)

Candidates involved in the creation of this caucus include Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Qanon promoting congress women, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert and (alleged) pedophile Matt Gaetz. (2) 

On top of calling for a “Anglo-Saxon political tradition” policy goals of the caucus will also include working “…towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture.” (3)

Representative Don Beyer of Virginia has referred to the group as the “White Supremacist Caucus” on Twitter. (4)

This “America First” Caucus represents the already easily observed growth of the far-right and nativist rhetoric and is something that should be watched closely. I also predict that it will be more popular and successful than mainstream commentators initially predict. 

Gabriel

In case you’re interested, you can read the document used in the two articles here: https://punchbowl.news/wp-content/uploads/America-First-Caucus-Policy-Platform-FINAL-2.pdf

(1) https://www.axios.com/america-first-anglo-saxon-marjorie-taylor-greene-e6dbc363-7352-47a7-8d4a-ae90d9ba7090.html

(2) https://www.usnews.com/news/top-news/articles/2021-04-16/us-house-republican-effort-to-form-america-first-caucus-raises-hackles-over-race

(3) https://www.axios.com/america-first-anglo-saxon-marjorie-taylor-greene-e6dbc363-7352-47a7-8d4a-ae90d9ba7090.html

4) https://www.usnews.com/news/top-news/articles/2021-04-16/us-house-republican-effort-to-form-america-first-caucus-raises-hackles-over-race

11 Killed In Egyptian Train Accident

A train heading to Mansoura, Egypt, derailed and fell on it’s side today, killing at least 11 and injuring many more. This is the third train accident that Egypt has seen in a month, and it’s been a running problem. Last month 32 people were killed and hundreds were injured after two trains collided, and in February 2019 a train crashed into a railway station, setting off an explosion that killed 25 people. The deadliest accident was in 2002, when a fire on an overnight train killed 370 people.

So this is a recurring problem in Egypt. Clearly they need to upgrade their infrastructure and have some sort of oversight of the trains on the tracks to prevent collisions. The cause of the most recent accident has not been determined, but most of the others have been results of mismanagement or aging infrastructure. Something must be done to prevent these accidents.

Eleanor Haas

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/18/egypt-dozens-injured-after-train-derails-near-cairo

https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/18/africa/egypt-train-derailment-intl/index.html

Thousands Flee Borno State

Due to attacks by Boko Haram, up to 65,000 Nigerians have been forced to leave a town within the state of Borno. This makes up around 80% of the town’s population. Those who are fleeing are the local residents of the town, and those who have already been displaced because of Boko Haram. After the citizens fled, Boko Haram members looted and burned down various parts of the town. 

The Biden administration can respond to this by providing assistance to those who have had to flee their homes. This can be done by providing first aid, food, clothing, and temporary shelters. Doing so would be a good way to show commitment to Nigeria and its people.

Hunter M

https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/briefing/2021/4/607944bf4/tens-thousands-forced-flee-violent-attacks-nigerias-borno-state.html

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