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Obama: Hu is at bat over North Korea

During Chinese president Hu Jintao’s state visit last week, President Obama attempted to persuade the Chinese leader to take a tougher stand against North Korea or face tougher US military deployment in Asia in response to North Korea’s nuclear program.  With the two Koreas at least somewhat willing to engage in talks, China will be a key part of the process in reconciliation between North and South.  President Obama claims that a nuclear-capable North Korea is a very possible scenario as a result of its working uranium enrichment plant and its possession of a bomb would be a threat to the interests of both China and the United States. If China does not cooperate, Obama will push for an intensified military presence in Northeast Asia including training exercises and potential long-term deployments.

Without China on board, any carrots or sticks directed toward North Korea would be compromised.  China has been North Korea’s biggest supporter in the international community, and their continued support has the potential to undermine any actions taken by the rest of the world.  Obama needs to keep his word when it comes to China.  By threatening and then backing off from a country as powerful as China, the US will only be hurting its interests in the future.  With an issue as explosive as North Korea, the president cannot afford any missteps and needs to keep the pressure on Hu.  Hu’s visit sets a good precedent of keeping ties open between China and the US and in situations where multilateral coordination is needed communication is an absolute necessity.


Obama Administration Must Step Up If Projected to Meet 2014 Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan

The Obama administration’s goal of withdrawing U.S. forces by the end of 2014 has generated increased pressure to pursue alternative strategies to produce results.Afghanistan represents a crucial aspect of American foreign policy, and the United States currently spends $7 billion a month in Afghanistan to pursue the Obama administration’s strategic goals. Several members of the Republican Party want to gather up party members to analyze the costs and sustainability of the current military program in Afghanistan.

The call to examine Obama’s strategies coincides with news reports illustrating the lack of adequate planning of construction in Afghanistan. Upwards of $11 billion in funds intended to construct and maintain bases, training camps, and headquarters for Afghan security forces may be wasted because the military has not developed a long-term plan to meet the Afghan government’s strategic security objectives. Many construction plans with completion dates in 2012 have not even been started. Meanwhile, those in charge of reconstruction efforts continue to call for more funds.

If U.S. troops are projected to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, better planning and management are necessary to build up the Afghan army and police. The United States can only leave in 2014 if the development of Afghan security forces is achieved. Currently, the goal is to have an Afghan army and police force 400,000 strong before U.S. withdrawal. Afghan security forces will also need adequate facilities before taking responsibility for the country’s security. There are also doubts that Afghanistan will be able to maintain these facilities without U.S. economic assistance once they are created. If the Obama administration expects to withdraw forces by 2014, the United States needs to reexamine its construction plans to outline priorities, maximize resources, and meet the needs of the Afghan government. Otherwise, American taxpayers and the Republican Party may attempt to take matters into their own hands to achieve results.

Good and Bad News in Mexico

Flavio Menendez Santiago, known as “El Amarillo” was arrested last week by Mexican police near the southern city of Oxaca.  Police say that Menendez is one of the founders of Los Zetas, the violent cartel that has established a strong presence in southern Mexico.  The majority of the gang’s violence is geared toward migrants from Central America trying to reach the US border.  The cartel has also created new trafficking routes through Central America to the southern parts of Mexico.  Mexican police also found another leading member of Los Zetas, Leonardo Vazquez, also known as “El Pachis,” who was shot and killed in the gunfight.  In addition to Menedez and Vazquez, police arrested two more suspected members of the cartel.

Although this news sounds promising, the violence is not necessarily dimishing because the drug cartels are extremely advanced and complex in their ways of resisting extinction.  Los Zetas operates more like a network of smaller cartels, rather than a firmly consolidated gang like its rivals.  Many criminals use the name “Los Zetas” because they know it will instill a great amount of fear in people. Therefore, when members are arrested by police, it is hard to determine how important they actually are in the gang and the impact that their arrest will have on the overall violence.  On the other hand, when leaders such as Menendez are arrested, the cartels take a harder hit.  Since Menendez was a key figure in the structure of the gang, violence is more likely to decrease.  However, the nature of these cartels is to fight for power.  Not only is there a power struggle between the rival cartels, but there is a fight among members within each cartel to gain more influence. When one leader is taken out, there are three more willing and eager to replace him.  Police must do more than arrest one or two leaders of a cartel to destroy it because the gang’s roots grow so deep.

There is good news in the case of  Los Zetas, though.  Its loosely- organized operations may be a valuable element for police. If the cartel continues to act in this manner, local police, along with federal authorities, have a greater chance of inflicting a strong blow to the Zeta structure.  Thus, the police must prevent the members of Los Zetas from organizing and consolidating to win this particular battle.


Bin Laden Warns France

After the disappearance of two French journalists in Afghanistan, an audiotape, with a speaker naming himself Osama bin Laden, declared that the journalists’ safety is directly decided by France’s retraction of troops from Islamic countries. Bin Laden warns that French affiliation with the United States and staying in Afghanistan would result in both the prisoners’ deaths but also in attacks on France both domestically and abroad. France, however, stated that it would stand by its terrorism and Afghan strategies and would remain in the country, with about 3,700 troops station in Afghanistan.

It is impressive that France stood so firm in their opposition to threats that could very well be carried out. There is no doubt that France is actively finding a way to free the prisoners without compromising their military strategy. It has been a major part of al-Qaeda’s strategy, since the first Persian Gulf incidents in the early 1990’s, to remove Western occupation from Islamic countries. They also want to remove any Westernized/anti-Islamic governments in the region and insert their own agenda to unite Islam under one caliphate (similar to the Pope of Catholicism, but with a lot more political persuasion), so it will be interesting to see their coming actions with the crippling of Tunisian and Lebanese governments in the past few weeks.


Potential Redeployment? China Produces Results

In recent comments to The New York Times, an anonymous senior Obama administration official spoke about a clear and unambiguous threat issued to Chinese President Hu Jintao apropos North Korea: exert the necessary pressure or face a redeployment of US military forces. In an increasing complex, precarious situation, the Obama administration has demonstrated that it will not tolerate a negligent Chinese policy threatening regional security.

The comments are reported to have been stated twice, once in a phone call between Mr. Obama and Mr. Hu, and just recently at a White House private dinner. In judging the effectiveness of the threat, both supporters and critics alike cannot dispute the fact that China has responded in turn to US demands. The substantive evidence for this claim is discernible in North Korea’s softened disposition towards talks with South Korea. Nonetheless, this raises the question on why Washington’s threat has managed to alter Beijing’s policy, if only minorly, towards Pyongyang.

Two reasons: regionally, the Chinese are aware of the fact that American forces in the west Pacific number around 68,000, with ~21,000 on the Korean peninsula and ~47,000 in Japan. Already uneasy with the current US military status-quo, Beijing would not want to provide yet another reason for increased US troop levels, either in South Korea or nearby Japan. Doing so further threatens Chinese security within the region. Globally, the Chinese do not want to appear incapable of controlling their reclusive, belligerent neighbor. In the current security studies discourse, China is considered a rising and imminent power, and any possibility for being shown incompetent in exercising pressure damages this growing reputation.

China, despite its assertions for being a peaceful power, will strive to distinguish itself in terms of security as both strong and efficacious.

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Iran on the defensive-for now

Stuxnet may be the answer to a huge world problem and a dilemma that has vexed every country’s foreign policy agenda-Iran’s nuclear program. Stuxnet is a complex and highly effective computer virus. Is was allegedly developed through a joint Israeli-American effort, although nobody has claimed responsibility (for obvious reasons). According to members of the American and Israeli government, the virus has been highly effective.

Admittedly I am not the most tech-savvy person, nor do I really enjoy tech -talk but some of the characteristics of Stuxnet are truly amazing. For instance, this virus can lie dormant in the computer system for years. Then, without warning, the virus can infiltrate the centrifuge rotors and cause them to spin uncontrollably-eventually destroying themselves.

Clearly this was a calculated and measured attempt to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, and the best part is that it seems to be working. The current projections are that the Iranian facilities have been set back several years. The new target date for Iranians to be able to have their facilities fully functioning is 2015.

I think that this virus best exemplifies the changing nature of war. We have begun to shift from conventional methods of force and physical attacks to cyberwarfare. Clearly Iran is going to have to beef up its cyber capabilities to limit any future destruction and humiliation. Perhaps the rumors of Israeli/American cooperation will only result in a greater and more pointed retaliation.


Regular Americans as spies for other countries?

Msnbc, along with other major news companies, have reported that a Michigan man has been sentenced to jail for being a spy for China. Over the last few years, Glenn Shriver had been trying to get a job with the CIA, State Department, and other Intelligence Departments. It turns out that Shriver was in contact with Chinese Intelligence officials, and he was paid almost $70,000 to date as compensation for the intelligence information he attempted to give the Chinese. Shriver claimed he was “recruited” by the Chinese officials as a spy. He visited China in 2007 and was paid heftily for taking the Foreign Service Exam, all money that he brought through to the US, bypassing US Customs. Shriver was caught and sentenced to four years in prison. The Intelligence community was relieved that Shriver had never worked for any Intelligence offices, and was not even close to receiving a job within the government/security community.

In my opinion, it seems as though many people fall through the cracks of national security. The terrorists who took part in 9/11 were all pilots trained here in the  United States, on our own soil. While there would have been no way to know their intent, 9/11 was a wake up call for the intelligence community. This case of Glen Shriver spying for the Chinese is just another example. Granted, why would a regular man be assumed to be a spy… and for China of all places?? I guess it is more surprising that Chinese officials “recruited” Shriver as a spy and he was probably in it for the mass amounts of money he received, which wasn’t even worth it in the end. Luckily, there is a silver lining: that he did not have access to any top secret information. It still makes one wonder, how many other people are like Glen Shriver, being paid to divulge secrets to other countries? I guess the government and security community will never know, but again: the CIA figured out Glen Shriver, so I’m sure they can do it again. The most ironic thing about this entire situation is that Shriver was sentenced when Chinese President Hu Jintao is here visiting the United States. It also puts China on the government’s unofficial “watch” list…. something for security agencies to keep an eye on for now and makes me wonder if there will be any international ramifications between China and the US from this incident.

Alex M.

Draft on Isreali Settlements

Today the U.N. Security Council received a draft produced by a collaboration of Arab nations concerning Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory. This draft was no doubt created to further Palestinian interests over the disputed territory, however the article points out that few believe anything will be done concerning the settlements in the near future, as the US will likely use their veto power to support of Israel if the draft goes to a vote in the U.N. Arab nations still have hope that this draft will eventually be voted on in the U.N. Security Council and that they can get the US to support the draft by abstaining from voting or supporting the draft entirely.

But what does this mean for security? This is a security issue for the people who believe that the territory occupied by Israeli settlements in fact belongs to the Palestinians because of the historical and social ties that this group of people has to the land.

Small Country Makes Large Contribution to anti-Piracy

A very small country just north of the pirate hotbeds of Somalia and Puntland has made the greatest contribution to defending unarmed cargo vessels from pirates operating in the area. According to the Somaliland Press, the world saw in 2010 more hostages taken by pirates than in the past twenty years. Despite the high number of hostages taken (1,181), international flotillas do not have (or seek) the legitimacy to prosecute the offenders. Therefore, most captured pirates have very few consequences. Whether dropped at the shores of Puntland, which has shown nothing but support for piracy, or taken to Europe or the U.S., a great leap from the harsh life off of the Gulf of Aden.

Somaliland is a stable, democratic state with free and fair elections, although the people of Somaliland are impoverished much the same way as her Somali and Puntland counterparts. Having a stable government with well defined and enforced laws has kept the people of Somaliland from practicing piracy. The small country also leads the world in prosecuting convicted pirates and placing them in jail for substantial amounts of time, despite spending much less money to combat the pirates than larger, wealthier nations.

There has been debate over who should be able to prosecute criminals in international waters and lawless, national waters (Somalia and Puntland).  Somaliland is already leading the world in number of pirates jailed and should continue to be a hub for the processing of these arrested pirates.  Rather than spend the money to have fleets from half the world away patrol the area around the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, a more practical solution would be to ally with states in the area.  Somaliland has already proven what she can do with limited resources.  Now imagine the possibilities if the country were funded by very large and wealthy nations such as the U.S. and Great Britain.  The problem of shipping criminals across the world to be tried by an international criminal court can be eradicated and the means with which to combat piracy can be contained in the area from which the problem springs.  The nations concerned with pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia should look toward, and work closely with, Somaliland to combat, contain and punish pirates.

North Korea and Japan

According to the New York Times, Japan and South Korea are beginning talks to pursue closer military ties. This would mean that their military secrets would be shared between these two nations. The United States has close military ties with South Korea and Japan, so this could potentially be a good thing for our country and its national security. A potential problem for Japan is their past constitutions strictly forbid any sort of military ties with South Korea, even though it would be beneficial in todays world.

There are very few weaknesses to this arrangement because the United States has close military ties to both of these countries. These shared military talks would provide the United States the opportunity to aid in a potential peace agreement, especially with the conflicts between North and South Korea. The potential for this agreement to work out is great, and will be a great boost for the United States with regard to its security.

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