Thursday, November 29, 2007
Slovakian police confiscated what they believe to be enriched uranium during a raid on arms dealers yesterday morning. The finding fuels suspicions that the former Soviet Republics are not properly safeguarding their nuclear materials. It is equally disturbing to note that the uranium was smuggled in what appears to be a mason jar cloaked in saran wrap.
The jar contained uranium of isotopes of both the 238 and rarer 235 flavors, a level of sophistication that proves the material was processed. Fortunately, uranium in powder form is particularly useful for the construction of a thermonuclear weapon. However, since it is ideal for use in a "dirty bomb". This makes the question "where did it come from?" far less intriguing than "where was it going?". Hungarian and Slovakian authorities cooperated in the raid so it is obvious that these smugglers had a multi-national operation, but it is not known which direction the arms were flowing. Since the arrests were made in the northeastern portion of Slovakia along the Hungary and Ukranian border we can reasonably assume that the material was procured from the Ukraine. From here we can imagine all sorts of delightful scenarios where arms dealers from Lithuania, Belarus, and elsewhere distribute similar goods to neerdowells like Syria.
If the value of the material could be determined it would be easier to venture who the buyer was, care to approximate the value of an enriched and powdered blend of U-235/U-238?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Dubbed ‘Naxalites’ after a town in West Bengal called Naxalbari, which was home to a Maoist uprising some 40 years ago, these rebels have steadily expanded their numbers and their influence to the extent that today they engage in ‘operations’ in 14 of India’s 29 states. The origins and largest concentrations of the Naxalite movement lie in India’s eastern states, particularly those of Andrha Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand and West Bengal.
Rebel activities include such standard tactics as attacks on government security forces, assassination of political leaders and attacks against government aid and relief efforts aimed at caring for those displaced by the fighting. Naxalites have also set up parallel governments in the rural areas controlled by their forces, with the ultimate objective being the ousting of the Indian Parliament.
By some estimates the total Naxalite armed force consists of around 20,000 soldiers supported by local militia units. While this number seems fairly insignificant when compared to number of troops the Indian government has at its disposal, the Naxalites have displayed the ability to concentrate their forces and easily overwhelm local police units, showing that while the movement lacks the strength to oust the government, in a crisis situation the Naxalites may indeed be capable of seizing a significant portion of eastern India and setting up a Maoist state.
India’s government has not been blind to this threat. In fact, PM Singh has called the Naxalites, "The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country." However, efforts by the government to quell the uprising have met with mixed results. Special para-military police units have had local success in killing and capturing hundreds of fighters as well as Naxalite leaders. But despite these setbacks, the Naxalite movement has continued to grow and expand.
The Indian national government must engage in counter-insurgency operations in all affected areas and halt the spread of the Maoist rebellion. Failure to do so in the long term could lead to an all-out civil war pitting the rural poor of India against the urban upper classes. Local governments lack the resources and ability to conduct these operations; a concerted national and sustained effort is required.
What’s the post-Annapolis? A dominant thought is that Iran will be the next. According to Greg Bruno of Council on Foreign Relations, Martin Indyk, a former US embassador to Israel, described ‘Iran as an elephant in the conference room.’ All the visitors (participants) to this zoo (conference room) consider the ways to tease the elephant. The Sunni Arab states—especially, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—participated as the allies of the US. Syria’s participation will significantly influence the relations with Tehran. This US-driven peace coalition will pressure Iran not to expand its sphere of influence any more. Iran will be in a fine fix. However, this can also make the rat to bite the cats through nuclear teeth.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Now, certainly Musharraf has reacted harshly, but it appears that he is slowly releasing bits of control, and is moving in the right direction. However, his opponents played the media well, and Musharraf got painted, unfairly, as a ruthless dictator.
First, it's important to look at his critics - Bhutto's reign as PM was riddled with corruption charges and various accusations, so much so that she was forced into self-exile. Sharif was no better, with charges of corruption and ties to terrorism, his second term ended with a military coup and his arrest.
Now, all of a sudden, the two are back, seeing Musharraf's uneasy situation as a golden opportunity to grab power for themselves. They are not just calling for political dissent, but for revolt against the government. Is healthy Democracy their real goal, or are they just being self-serving and opportunistic? Add in the fact that Musharraf was re-elected by parliament, and the opposition parties withdrew from the vote to try to undermine it's validity. Basically, opposition forces don't have the votes to force Musharraf from office, so they are resorting to other means.
Under Musharraf's rule Pakistan has improved in terms of government corruption, has improved its economy and its relations with India. Add that to the fact that Musharraf has been the first Pakistani Prime Minister who has been willing to combat terrorism, and it is clear that it is not only in America's best interests, but in Pakistan's best interests that he remain in power, and that opposition leaders run for office, instead of encouraging anti-government revolts. Bhutto and Sharif are power-hungry, and have their own interests at mind instead of those of their country. American politicians and the Bush Administration should continue to urge Musharraf to loosen restrictions on free speech, but publicly they need to move past the pictures the media has painted and deal with the real situation.
News regarding the situation between the Turkish government and Kurdish rebels in northern
Monday, November 26, 2007
There is a history though between this group and Putin. Putin's government delayed the visas that the monitors were supposed to receive and said that the group must be cut down to 70 people, from the 400 that were used in the last Parliamentary election. It is evident that this group probably got fed up with dealing with Putin. In the 2004 election, this group concluded that the election had not been conducted fairly at all, so it is obvious why Putin would not want them present. He has an even more hard line approach than he had in 2004, and he probably has concerns about the legitimacy of this election.
It does not help a group associated with Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, when you have been known to put your dissenters in prison. The latest example was seen this past weekend when Garry Kasparov, leader of the Other Russia movement and former chess champion, was arrested after trying to deliver a letter calling into question the methods that were being used for the elections. The rallies and marches that his group had implemented earlier had been broken up by riot police officers as well and hundreds were detained. The international community has called for his release, but it was to no avail. The Soviet-style dictatorship that Kasparov has been warning about seems to now be a reality. So who could blame a group of election monitors, who champion human rights, for not wanting to go into a country who does not want them there and who has a history of treating dissenters with such disdain.
Abbas should do something for his domestic popularity. To do this task, he is diverting people's attention to international affairs-Mideast peace conference. People used to say that he is a 'moderate' leader. But, his attitude is not only caused from his political philosophy, but also from his intention to reverse his political situation. Because 'moderate' means that there is enough room for changes.
In turn, Bush administration was benefited from the so called 'diversionary theory.' You're right and the author of this article from the NYT is right. It is surely stagecraft, not statecraft.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
In a strange twits of irony, Secretary of State Rice has now actually evolved from her previous neo-conservative foreign policy stance into an actual diplomatic one. I can't help but think this change resulted from her meetings with European and Arab leaders whose support is essential to any Iranian statecraft measures. So in other words, although these meetings are not likely to produce any substantive resolutions, aside from some interesting photo-ops now that Syria has decided to attend, they could increase the administration's currently weak leverage in regards to Iran. Call me sinister, but I see no other feasible objective or motivation in regards to this administration's complete reversal in its desire to be involved in the Middle East peace process.
The problem is when human rights issues come around full circle. The United States is great at shining the light of moral responsibility on others, but rather poor in accepting blame for its own slip-ups. The recent rape case in Saudi Arabia is a good example. A 19-year-old girl was found sitting in a car with a man not related to her. A gang comes along and rapes both of them. The girl gets six months in prison and 200 lashes for her indiscretion. That's terrible, but does it affect the flow of oil?
Our saviors, the Democrats, are of course widely condeming Saudi Arabia for this. They get to wave the human rights sword around next as they seek office. However, will they condemn or sanction the Saudis once in power? Will the next president cease the flow of money into Saudi Arabia for human rights issues? Does anyone really care about the human rights situation in Arabia, or is it just good chatter?
Ultimately, leaders, institutions, and policy-makers need to either play the moral card uniformally, or not at all. Perhaps China could be our guide, as they do business for the sake of busines and leave morality out of things. In a perfect world, there would be atonement for such atrocities, but until then, nations will continue to do business as usual and use human rights issues as a tool of policy, not of morality.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Most of the North Koreans are poor and its territories are wasted. It will probably take several decades to reconstruct the whole infrastructures for stable economies. South Korea has the world 11th largest economy; however, it will cost much more efforts to recover North Korean economy. IMF financial crisis in 1997 proved the severity of South Korea’s bubble economy. South Korea overcame successfully that crisis; however, the weak financial infra will result in a more disastrous outcome in the future. Still, South Korean economy is instable. Many experts used to saying Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) as a blueprint for integration of the two Korea. However, it is simply a symbolic in its size and investment rather than substantial. Unification of Germany was possible because of the thorough preparation of West Germany from establishing the basic infrastructure to the complex industries.
Political situations are more vulnerable than economies. South Korea is incompetent to play a leadership role to accommodate the impoverished North Koreans. Of course, South Korea is continuously developing its stable democracy after the first civilian government took office in 1987. However, its politics showed inconsistent and even severely corrupted. To be successful the reunification, South Korean political leaders should establish ‘norms’ to promote stable democracy. But, they lost their political trust. For example, South Korean President Roh, Moo-huyn elected as president through anti-Americanism. Still, many South Koreans remember the two middle school girls who killed by the USFK armored vehicle which make Roh successful in presidential election. After he became a president, Roh changed his attitude toward pro-American without considering the voters. Elite politicians also used to shift their political colors so frequently according to the situations. If South Koreans cannot give beliefs to North Korea, political integration is impossible. Social norms to construct a unified state are needed to prevent the political disorder.
Without the thorough studies and preparations, reunification would harmful to both Koreas.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
This is a logical “realist,” if you will, move by OPEC. They have an economic problem—the weak dollar—and they want to fix it; no biggie, but there are two scary parts to this. First, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is one of the leading people trying to convert oil money out of American dollars. Any plan presented by Ahmadinejad would be a direct attempt to harm America, not just help OPEC, if he the mastermind of this plan. Secondly, Chavez, and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, called for a more political agenda for the group.
If OPEC decided to become an even more of a political player on the world stage America could be in a BAD situation. This plan was balked at by Saudi King Abdullah "Those who want OPEC to take advantage of its position are forgetting that OPEC has always acted moderately and wisely. Oil shouldn't be a tool for conflict; it should be a tool for development." So thanks King Abdullah, you’re America’s hero for the week!
Nevertheless, it seems as though Iraq is slowly trudging, British style, toward a national governance that is more or less tenable—though less “muddle” and more “through” would be nice.
But if the biggest operational mistake of the 2003 invasion was the lack of postwar planning, failure to prepare adequately for the future governance of “post-postwar” Iraq would be equally injurious, for the US and for the region.
As Iraq’s post-Saddam society forms, three concerns or obstacles to future tranquility stand out: sectarian impulses, an armed populace, and the Kurdish question.
The chief danger of sectarianism is the tendency for the three major groups, skeptical of the government’s viability, to seek special favors from the government instead of supporting its role as protector of the rights of all the people. If sectarianism continues, the US practice of arming Sunni groups and the disposition of the Iraqi Kurds are likely to become consequential challenges as well.
For these reasons the US must use political and economic engagement to lay the foundations for lasting stability in Iraq. In short, Iraq’s sectarian groups must become convinced that there is real benefit in using legitimate government processes for effecting change, rather than resorting to extra-governmental coercion. Encouraging the establishment of transparent and equitable political processes should be priority number one for Iraq and the US. Not only should sectarian-based policies be eschewed, but equitable policies should secure tangible rewards. Making room for deeper economic and political interaction between Iraq and the EU and other Middle Eastern states could strengthen the political effect of US engagement.
Decreasing levels of violence in Iraq may be propitious, but US and Iraqi interests lie more in long term tranquility. In a democratic society, this requires that people abide by established political procedures and that they have confidence in them. This is what the US should seek to instill.
Friday, November 16, 2007
There has been an agreement made between the prime ministers of the two countries to start a freight train service that will cross both borders. This is the first time this has taken place in more than 50 years. The two countries will also work together off of their coasts in their fishing boats. South Korea also wanted to build an industrial complex for cargo ships near the North Korean border, and North Korea has decided to pull all of its naval ships from a port near the border to a port that is further north. Most of the money being poured into these efforts is from South Korea, but North Korean cooperation has played a large part in it as well. An expert on North Korea in a university located in Seoul has been quoted as saying:
“These projects will chip away at the DMZ. They are steppingstones toward what we hope will become a confederation of the two Koreas before eventual reunification.”
This declaration may seem like unification is evident, but most of the open supporters of unification have come from South Korea, but by cooperating with such programs, North Korea has shown that they may also be interested in a unified Korean Peninsula. Maybe there will be a day when Kim Jong-Il has a Broadway play in his honor take place in Seoul. We can only hope.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Currently the worlds attention seems affixed to Iran's nuclear weapons program and the civil unrest in Pakistan that could endanger their nuclear arsenal. Clearly it is in the worlds interest to make sure that nuclear weapons technology does not become widely available due to the obvious dangers associated with this. It would seem, however, that the specific focus on these two crises has significantly reduced the amount of attention the world pays to other nuclear threats.
Apparently last week a "military style" attack was launched on a nuclear facility in Pelindaba, South Africa in which two armed groups working in conjunction managed to breach the facility and tried to remove a computer. The security personnel apparently intervened at the last second and a fire fight ensued that left several guards dead, the computer abandoned, and the assailants fleeing. Although the South African government has been silent as to the possible motives of the attackers they have acknowledged that it was very unlikely that it was the hardware which the men were after. Accusations have been leveled against the security guards on duty of complicity or negligence.
Considering the sophistication of the attack and the fact that South Africa was in the process of developing nuclear weapons in the late 80's it would be possible that the assailants wanted to secure some of the left over research data that might have still been stored in the plants database. Although the computer was abandoned it is still not clear whether the attackers were able to access any of the files or whether they had simply taken the hard drive for simplicities sake. With the South African government silent everything is possible.
It seems worrying that this event garnered almost no international attention at all. If stopping the spread of nuclear weapons was the goal of current policies toward Iran and Pakistan then maybe other countries with nuclear technology should be closely monitored as well. Especially very poor countries with nascent nuclear weapons technology lying about with little sophisticated protection. While the world is focused on containing Iran and stabilizing Pakistan it would not be unreasonable for terrorist to shift their nuclear weapons procurement attempts to other regions.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The U.S. Marine Corps has deployed its oft delayed, much maligned, and questionably capable pet project, the V-22 Osprey, to
It should be noted that the deployment has received little publicity. This is, in my opinion, a reflection of what little faith the Pentagon brass has in the Osprey. If attention is drawn to the project the first public failure of the craft in combat (which is, in my opinion, inevitable) will be met with sharp criticism. The decision to deploy the unproven aircraft in
The Osprey is still an impressive piece of equipment, but what is even more impressive is that the vehicle even made its way to combat deployment. The program is infamous as one of the most intensely politicized projects in the sordid-history of DOD’s cost-plus system. Development of the V-22 encountered nearly every bureaucratic obstacle imaginable (Dick Cheney in particular voiced his contempt) and the project was killed and then revived on several occasions. However, the steadily rising costs, 30 year development cycle, and two fatal crashes could not even prevent the project from continuation. Why? A huge contract with money spread evenly across the districts of some of the most powerful representatives in Congress. It might be a flawed piece of hardware that places our troops at risk, but at least it puts money in the pockets of good, hardworkin' Americans!
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
|The touchy situation in Pakistan is of great concern for the world community. General Musharraf's recent abolishment of the government should be widely criticized and denounced by all concerned, regardless of political alignment in the Terror War. Besides, if he were such a staunch ally, why is it that the border with Afghanistan is still uncontrolled and UBL still at large? It seems that our millions in aid to Pakistan should be buying us more.|
Instability in Pakistan is a great threat to the security of the region. To date, Musharaff's regime has been able to control the country through strong-man tactics and the promise of future democratic elections. To no-one's surprise, this has not happened and probably never will. So, the pivotal question here is how to shore up Pakistan and re-establish peace in that country and the region.
Continued backing of Musharraf is NOT the answer. Yes, his iron-fisted control of Pakistan does create control, but it is an ethereal control that could collapse with any popular uprising or inner-governmental coup....not to mention any hostilies with India. Would it not be better for all if Pakistan were allowed to get back on track as a democracy, the path that it was on before Musharraf's 1999 take-over?
A democratic Pakistan would mean better relations with other democracies, and especially with its neighbor, India. The only true ties that the Unites States has with the Musharraf regime is the cooperation in the Terror War which was gained through direct threatening by the US. Throw in Pakistan's dodgy history of weapons proliferation and you have a regime that has not been the shining beacon of friendship in the Middle East that some pundits might have us believe. Besides, isn't terribly hypocritical of the US to champion democracy in the world and continue its support of a dictator?
Without question, a democratic Pakistan would be a much better bet for security, stability, and even better cooperation in the War on Terror.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
First, Musharraf has been a key US ally. Right now, Pakistan is one of the most important battlegrounds in the War on Terror. We need a government in place that will allow the US military to enter its country and continue the fight against terrorists. Unfortunately, it is a delicate balance, because unpopular dictatorships tend to encourage more terrorism. Basically, we need to keep him in power, while ensuring that opposition leaders are placated as much as possible.
Second, and most important, is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Having a stable government, even if it is a dictatorship, is preferable to anarchy or unstable democracy when a nation has nuclear weapons, as Pakistan does. The United States needs to do everything in its power to keep a stable government in Pakistan, to prevent nuclear weapons from being in questionable or unknown hands.
Overall, the situation is far from ideal. But presently, our concern should be ensuring that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, and that we are able to use their country to base attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, for the moment, pressuring for democratic reforms must take a backseat. We should do our best to encourage freedom and democracy in Pakistan, but not to the point where it will disrupt our other priorities.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
These problems all came to a head last night when Musharraf declared emergency rule over Pakistan. This action curtailed constitutional safeguards on life and liberty, restricts freedom of movement, banned the Pakistani Supreme Court from rescinding emergency order, and a few other things; basically Pakistan is Musharraf-land now. In response Condi Rice and the White House gang demanded “a quick return to constitutional law” and opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto commented that “this is not an emergency…this is martial law.”
This situation creates a very interesting conundrum for the Bush Administration. Musharraf has been a supporter of The War on Terror, receiving billions of dollars of American aid since 2001, but it is very debatable how effective he has been. So does democracy loving America support a friendly dictator or a new possibly anti-American government that comes about via the will of the people?
Rice has already has stated that “obviously we are going to have to review the situation with aid.” That could be a bluff or a serious threat, only time will tell. But, this is a major but, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell stated the emergency declaration ``does not impact our military support of Pakistan'' …so what Codi targeted sanctions against Musharraf’s favorite booze?
Maybe the course of Musharraf’s and America’s actions in the coming days and weeks will come down to a very simple equation: does Musharraf need America more? Or does America need Musharraf more?
Friday, November 02, 2007
Those in favor of jettisoning the strategy pursued by Rumsfeld point to the chaos that has followed in Iraq and Afghanistan as justification for increasing the size of US forces. According to them the US military can destroy, but can not create (a nation that is). And they are absolutely correct, the military's job is to fight wars and destroy, and no one does it better than the US military. It is claimed by the nation builders that more recruits will automatically translate into success. They could not be more wrong. The United States can bring all the jobs and development it wants to Iraq and Afghanistan and it will still find itself knee-deep in an insurgency. This is because the US is fighting religious fanatics (ie the Taliban) who will stop at nothing to prevent the modern western world from taking root in their would-be Caliphate or whatever ultimate goal they are pursuing.
Just how is the US supposed to drum up the recruits to fight a hugely unpopular war anyway? Much to the dismay of American male population, the answer is conscription and that is not going to happen. Much is made of the fact that many in the US know someone currently serving in Iraq and the psychological damage it has inflicted on loved ones. Increasing the size of the military would only exacerbate this situation.
Counter-insurgency aside, how is the US to successfully engage in a future war against a numerically superior opponent such as China or India? In a war of attrition, the superior technology is the only way for the US off-set the disadvantage of facing an opponent that can put more boots on the ground. Some say that war with India or China is unlikely, and that is the case. However, it is wrong to conclude that the US can afford to surrender its technology lead. Doing so could enable China to pursue a more belligerent foreign policy.
Instead of choosing between a lean and mean and big and stupid, maybe the US should just avoid nation building wars altogether.