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May 28, 2013

Security

A new Legal Framework Needed to Address Drones

May 11, 2013 by

A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned drone comes into land at Kandahar Airbase in Helmand, Afghanistan. Source: UK Ministry of Defence

To what extent should a country preserve the rights of its citizens abroad who plan attacks against it? This question led some to protest the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011, an American citizen and high-ranking al-Qaida member. Writing in the Daily News in 2011, Ron Paul, former Texas congressman and former presidential candidate, argued shortly after a drone strike killed the al-Qaeda leader, “Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. Under our Constitution, American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced. As President, I would have arrested Awlaki, brought him to the U.S., tried him and pushed for the stiffest punishment allowed by law. Treason has historically been judged to be the worst of crimes, deserving of the harshest sentencing. But what I would not do as President is what Obama has done and continues to do in spectacular fashion: circumvent the rule of law.”

In dealing with terrorists linked to the September 11 attacks or involved in planning future attacks like al-Awlaki, the United States relies heavily on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a joint resolution passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001 following the September 11 attacks. Although the document addresses the country’s position regarding foreigners involved in terrorism, it lacks the procedure for dealing with Americans engaged in terrorism abroad. As a result, it is unclear whether the United States has an obligation to uphold certain guaranteed rights, specifically due process.

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The Pentagon’s Logistics Nightmare

May 9, 2013 by

The USS Gridley pulls alongside a sealift command dry cargo ship in the South China Sea

“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.”

– Sun Tzu

Nearly two years ago on March 11th 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami off the east coast of Japan resulted in one of the worst nuclear disasters since Chernobyl, killing more than 18,000 and laying to waste tens of billions of dollars in damages. But one of the surprising ‘aftershocks’ of the March 11th quake was the catastrophic effect it inflicted on the global supply network.

Factories and key infrastructure were completely destroyed. Vehicles, iPad’s and pharmaceutical ingredients worth billions were held in limbo as Japan got back on its feet. As Industry Week noted, Toyota executives knew about their first tier suppliers, but did not know how the disaster affected 2nd, 3rd or 4th tier suppliers. It turns out that many of the ancillary contractors and sub-contractors were damaged. They had virtual monopolies on particular electronic components or on the manufacture of a specific piece of metal that ultimately halted more than 2 million vehicles in production. It became particularly clear when the disaster unfolded that the global economy had moved beyond localized supply chains into the realm of globalized supply networks.

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North Korean Provocations will not Lead to War

April 29, 2013 by

Military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. Image via NOS Nieuws

The media has been reporting often (with speculation) about the latest string of threats emanating from North Korea, including possible nuclear attacks on Seoul, Tokyo and Guam, a United States territory in the Pacific Ocean. The speculation on what will happen in Northeast Asia implies that no one can be certain about the intentions of the reclusive yet bellicose Kim Jong-un. The general consensus worldwide is that the North Korean regime is neither rational nor trustworthy, and therefore the international community should take its threats very seriously.

However, this is not the first time that a Northeast Asian leader and his regime have been labelled as as irrational and unpredictable. In 1950, analysts in the United States made similar judgements of Mao Zedong as a volatile leader as well. Two major foreign policy decisions by Mao – to enter the Korean War against the US in 1950, within a year of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and to openly split with the Soviet Union in 1960 – were used as evidence of his “irrationality” by US analysts.

By drawing parallels between North Korea’s current sabre-rattling and Mao’s security posturing in the 1950s and 1960s, it is possible to introduce the perspective that Kim is acting according to an old script; his intention is to bolster sagging domestic support and strengthen North Korea’s international bargaining position. North Korea wants something, but it’s clearly not war.

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Beijing and Moscow: Pyongyang’s Silent Partners

April 3, 2013 by

Photo released by KCNA news agency on March 29, 2013 shows top leader Kim Jong-Un

As tension mounts on the Korean Peninsula, consider the two most reluctant participants, Russia and China. Russian involvement in Korean affairs can be traced back to the 19th century and China has been involved for several centuries. Both states are trapped into supporting Pyongyang for economic and diplomatic rewards.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin gambled that the cancellation of economic aid would lead to better economic relations with the Republic of Korea. The gamble failed because China entered the void that Russian influence had once filled and consequently it partly restored its traditional suzerain relationship with Korea. Yet to gain this influence, China took over the burden of aid to Pyongyang, which now accounts for 70% of energy and regular donations of over $1m in food aid.

Without significant influence over Pyongyang, the weakest partner in the Six Party Talks, President Putin and Medvedev have both attempted to rekindle relations. This has gifted Kim Jong-Un an opportunity to take advantage of Sino-Russian competition for influence. He and his father, Kim Jong-Il, exploited this opportunity by continually refusing to settle Cold War era debt, stating that they were donations.

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Mr. Kim and the Envelope

March 31, 2013 by

Photo released by KCNA news agency on March 29, 2013 shows top leader Kim Jong-Un attending an urgent meeting with top military officials. KCNA/Xinhua via ABC News

Like his father, Kim Jong-Un is best compared to a bellicose 13-year old child who stomps his feet and makes a fuss until he gets his way. Unlike an ordinary child, this one’s tantrums come with high stakes. The young Mr. Kim has now taken his game of chicken as far as it can go without actually pulling the trigger. The series of exchanges and threats are indeed worrisome for Washington and its allies; China, Japan, South Korea and the United States are taking it all seriously. Is Kim Jong-Un dumb enough to actually follow through?

According to a statement released by state-run KCNA, North Korea has stated that it is in a “state of war” with South Korea. “Situations on the Korean Peninsula, which are neither in peace or at war, have come to an end,” the statement read. “From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly.”

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North Korea’s Provocative Pattern

March 17, 2013 by

The United States will add more ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to its arsenal to guard against increased threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced at the Pentagon on March 15, 2013

The United States will add more ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to its arsenal to guard against increased threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced at the Pentagon on March 15, 2013

North Korea, the recalcitrant hermit kingdom, has decided yet again that the international community is ignoring it. Pyongyang has voided the 1953 Korean armistice and warned that it will launch a nuclear attack on the United States as U.S.-South Korean military exercises involving 3,000 American and 10,000 South Korean soldiers began earlier this month.

Exactly how Pyongyang plans to launch a nuclear salvo on the United States is still unclear and whether it has the capacity is questionable. Most North Korea watchers remain doubtful that the belligerent nation has the technical means to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States. This does not, however, undermine the seriousness of the threat nor detract from North Korea’s intentions to up the ante.

Already, Pyongyang has severed communications with South Korea and launched a propaganda campaign designed to seek out concessions from the United States while at the same time bolstering the credentials of Kim Jong-Un among North Koreans and the country’s military establishment.

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Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy in Mali

March 4, 2013 by

If Washington continues to avoid direct engagement in Mali there remains a possibility that Mali’s instability could spread throughout West Africa and to the greater region. There is some evidence of this in Nigeria with the growth of Boko Haram. Mali’s internal strife not only represents a threat to Mali and its neighbors but the fragile state of intra-African politics. The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are engaged in Mali with ECOWAS dedicated to the restoration of democracy and the AU committed to preserving the territorial integrity of Mali.

So far the Obama administration has not made any official commitments regarding direct military relief in Mali aside from limited support in the form of ferrying supplies to the region. Adding further urgency, various insurgency groups and Islamists are joining forces in some instances. Organizations such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Polisario Front, Ansar Dine, and Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) represent a network of terrorist and separatist movements whose combined actions characterize a growing threat to the economic and political development of the region. There are links that bind these movements together like ideology, tribalism, ethnicity, politics, and religion. Mali’s fate is just another piece of the puzzle in resolving issues in West Africa but Washington refuses to address the dynamic relationship between these guerilla conflicts. Reaffirming Mali’s progress towards democracy is the first step that U.S. foreign policy needs to take to resolve Mali’s and the region’s chaos.

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Policing National Security Threats

February 7, 2013 by

President Barack Obama meets with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in the Oval Office, May 9, 2011. Pete Souza/White House

Organizations that threaten national security have become increasingly advanced, both technologically and strategically, causing normal policing tactics to become outdated and ineffective. Adapting policing strategies to combat a modern asymmetrical foe could alleviate the bombardment of national security threats compromised by criminal and terrorist organizations.

The establishment of a myriad of intelligence and law enforcement agencies has met challenges that arise as a result of domestic and international threats, and national security enforcement agencies have been organized to target and combat these threats.  The public perception of national security threats are often associated with issues ranging from narcotics and weapons smuggling to terrorist attacks and human smuggling.

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Security Firms seek inroads in Mali

February 1, 2013 by

Tuareg tribesman in Mali. Image via Al Jazeera

The British security firm G4S is set to rake in massive profits thanks to crises in Mali, Libya and Algeria. Recognized as the world’s biggest security firm, the group’s brand plummeted during the London Olympics last year due to its failure to satisfy conditions of a government contract. But with growing unrest in North and West Africa, G4S is expected to make a speedy recovery.

The January 16th hostage crisis at Algeria’s Ain Amenas gas plant, where 38 hostages were killed, ushered in the return of al-Qaeda not as extremists on the run, but as well-prepared militants with the ability to strike deeply into enemy territories and cause serious damage. For G4S and other security firms, this also translates into growing demands. “The British group (..) is seeing a rise in work ranging from electronic surveillance to protecting travelers,” the company’s regional president for Africa told Reuters. “Demand has been very high across Africa,” Andy Baker said. “The nature of our business is such that in high-risk environments the need for our services increases.”

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Mali: U.S. Must Enforce Aid Accountability

January 28, 2013 by

French soldiers at an airbase in Bamako, Mali. Arnaud Roine/EPA

It is critical to stability in the Maghreb and the Sahel region that terrorism in Mali be dealt with, both militarily and politically. The current situation in Mali cannot be separated from the issues in the Maghreb and the Sahel.

Extremists are breaking down the traditional tribal cultural bonds that have held society together in the Sahel region. This breakdown has far-reaching consequences for future generations. If we do not begin to reverse this trend immediately, we will have an exponentially greater problem to deal with in the near future, and much more serious long-term effects. It is critical that we apply equal pressure across the entire region in order to deal with terrorism.

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The Next American Crusade: The U.S. Military Campaign in Africa

January 14, 2013 by

Despite upcoming deep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, the United States has embarked on a military campaign in Africa. Confidential sources inside AFRICOM (the United States military’s Africa Command) spoke of a large increase of materials and manpower making its way to Africa in early 2011.  The past year saw a very quiet and concerted effort on the part of the administration to continue the U.S. military and intelligence build up on the continent.

The latest announcement of an additional three to five thousand troops was accompanied by several conditions and caveats meant to ease any doubt that the troops are there to assist in counterterrorism operations. This is remarkable noting the impending budget crunch the military will endure, the constant down-play by the administration of the condition of Al Qaeda and the overall resistance to venture into another armed conflict.

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Austrian Defense Spending and Stalingrad

January 10, 2013 by

For the first time in my living memory, the Austrian Federal Army is front-page news on Austrian papers and is debated heatedly on public television. Riding a populist crest but lacking the foresight of any clear direction, Vienna Mayor Michael Hauepl, Federal Chancellor Werner Feymann, and Minister for Defense and Sport Norbert Darabos are calling all Austrians to the polls to decide the future of national defense in Austria. In a bizarre reversal of their historical positions, the socialist SPOE favors the establishment of an all-volunteer military force, whereas the conservative OEVP firmly defends mandatory military conscription. Rather than try objectively to debate this issue and reach an agreement, both parties cowardly escaped by enlisting the Austrian people to determine the future of the Austrian Federal Army.

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The Iran Nuclear Debate

January 3, 2013 by

Over the last few months, there has been much public discussion surrounding the increasing likelihood of an Israeli pre-emptive strike upon Iran, as part of a broader strategy to halt the Iranian government’s supposed nuclear weapons programme.

Recently this talk has been muted by Israel’s latest attempts to ‘pacify’ the Gaza Strip, though as far as Israel’s strategic defence is concerned, an Iranian nuclear deployment is a far more dangerous ball game. Or is it? This article aims to purport a convincing argument to the contrary, that Iranian nuclear ambitions are not as great a threat as supposed, and may even be welcome. However, this article also serves to warn of the consequences should a military solution to remove this alleged threat be undertaken, and principally argues that the cost of action is likely to be far greater than restraint.

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Red Lines and Syria’s Chemical Weapons

December 15, 2012 by

While the Obama administration has for many months stressed the need to give diplomacy another chance to work in Syria, the administration has now decided that if Assad were to employ his vast chemical weapons stockpile against the rebels, the U.S. would have no choice but to intervene in the nearly two-year old conflict. Fears about the potential fallout of the demise of the Assad regime are running high, as a post-Assad Syria could likely degenerate into a sectarian civil war that would make Iraq look like a picnic, given the complex religious and ethic fabric of Syrian society.

With the rebels making significant advances throughout Syria, and inching closer to the heart of Damascus, the fear is that Assad could launch chemical weapon attacks against rebel positions in a bid to halt their advance. Employing chemical weapons is not a precision game – numerous factors would impact the success or failure of their use, including prevailing winds. Collateral damage would likely be immeasurable, essentially constituting mass murder on a scale not witnessed in decades. Assad could be using the threat of chemical weapons as a bargaining chip to secure more preferential terms, should he decide to flee – which is becoming increasingly likely.

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Rockets and Pyongyang

December 11, 2012 by

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket. Image via ABC News

There is a lot of noise at the moment on the Korean Peninsula. One might argue that there always is, but on this occasion, interest is centered on whether the DPRK will test a new disguised ballistic missile, ostensibly to launch a satellite into space sometime this month.  Officially, the test has been pushed back to December 29th. South Korean sources claim that the delay was occasioned by a faulty component in the Unha-3 rocket.

What a busy month this is proving to be. The first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, to be marked on December 17th; the South Korean presidential elections, slated for December 19th; and the Japanese elections on December 16th. Add to this the arrival of China’s new leader Xi Jinping, and we have a considerable fruit salad of variables.

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