Friday, December 07, 2007

Final Exam

DIP 600, National Security
Final Exam
December 7, 2007

Please answer one of the following three questions. Your answer is due by 2:45pm today.

  1. How does the new NIE on Iran transform the strategic options of the United States? Should the NIE lead to changes in policy, or are its conclusions too uncertain to be relied upon?
  2. What opportunities, if any, has the relative success of the Surge opened in the Middle East? What options does it allow or foreclose?
  3. Who are the most important allies of the United States? What factors do we need to weigh when assessing this question?

Badges, We Don't Need No Stinking Badges

How do you get rid of marauding elephants? Apparently with more elephants

Since 2002, palm-oil plantations on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been expanding into the jungle habitats of the endangered Asian elephant. Never ones to give up easily, elephants in the region have begun attacking workers and crops alike. These clashes have resulted in the deaths of 42 people and 100 Asian elephants; not to mention the economic impact of destroyed crops.

So why not just kill the elephants? Well, first off killing elephants in the jungle is probably pretty hard; but more importantly, these elephants are a protected species, so while killing them in self defense is acceptable, a region-wide campaign of extermination would meet with significant international disapproval.

Enter the Flying Squad.

In probably the coolest environmentalist initiative of all time, the World Wildlife Fund has assembled a 4-elephant, 8-man team to patrol the threatened areas and respond to attacks in progress. Since being deployed in 2004, the Flying Squad has not only driven off numerous elephant incursions, but has done so without direct physical confrontation.

The squad uses guerilla tactics to herd and frighten the offending elephants, an effort aided by the use of their noise-guns (which resemble sawed-off potato guns). However, should the need arise, the elephants are trained in close combat.

The WWF has recently been contacted by various plantation companies in the region interested in setting up there own elephant squads, which suggests that this solution could be effective and feasible on a large scale. But the real lesson to take from this situation is that NGOs, even environmentalist ones, can be instrumental in developing solutions to difficult and even bizarre security problems.

Fun With Linguistics

After reading numerous news reports on "homicide bombings" and battles with "terrorists" in Afghanistan, I can't help but chuckle at the choice of words used by the media nowadays. I remember a simpler time, when attacks by terrorists who strapped a bomb to their chest and detonated it were known as "suicide bombings". After all, it is a bombing in which the perpetrator ends his or her own life, so this phrase seemed appropriate enough. Then, some genius decided that these terrorists were more aimed at killing others than at killing themselves, and surely we should name them based on their priorities. So, suicide bombers became homicide bombers. This seems to have been done largely to make the acts seem worse, as if that is necessary. I think it is more troubling when you consider that someone is willing to end their own life for no reason other than to kill other people - this is a fascinating and disturbing trend that is not discussed anymore, possibly because there are no more suicide bombers, only homicide bombers.

And then, of course, you have the battles with terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan. It seems to me that we have completely lost the true meaning of what a terrorist is - then again, the idea of a "War on Terror" is absurd in and of itself. What we are fighting is Islamic extremism - a certain percentage of Muslims have perverted their religion to the point where they feel the need to kill all non-Muslims. A terrorist is someone who murders innocent civilians in order to "terrorize" them, hopefully producing a desired effect. All of the people we are fighting in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan are no doubt Islamic extremists, but most of them have probably never committed a terrorist act of any kind, or even planned one - yet they are labeled as terrorists. Now, maybe "Islamic extremist" is too wordy for the media types, but it seems to me that we are being dishonest with ourselves in regard to our mission, with the language we use. It's time to be honest and call things as they are, because if we continue to be disingenuous with names and titles, we risk losing site of what and whom we are fighting in the first place.

Putins uNeccessary Election

The parliamentary election that were held this weekend have so far produced many questions. Where they fair? How would they affect the Kremlin? And most importantly why were they held?

Clearly this weeks election has proven a conundrum to many international commentators. Yes, voices have been heard around the world that the elections were rigged. Even Angela Merckel has come out and said "measured by our standards, it was neither a free, fair nor democratic election". Considering that Putin's approval rating is over 80% there really was no obvious reason to call the election.

There are questions concerning power change that will soon have to take place. Putin has so far not attempted to make any constitutional changes to allow him to carry on his mandate as President. Apparently he has chosen the less obtrusive option of maintaining power by becoming the Prime Minister. Again this question leaves no clear explanation for the call for elections.

However, the elections could have been an attempt by Putin to consolidate his forces within the Kremlin itself and to stave off conflicts between the different clans. Recently several cracks have appeared within Putin's faction inside the Kremlin. Apparently several people have been sacked and lines been drawn between several high ranking officials. Two months ago a high ranking general of the drug fighting agency was arrested by the FSB which lead to serious infighting among high ranking Kremlin members. The election therefore could have been an attempt by Putin to show his power with the people and to squash opposition within his own faction. Also some of the clans have recently been acting up and the election could also have served to show them who is in charge.

Sometimes it Takes a Failure to Prevent Future Failures.

It was shocking and disappointing to learn that the intelligence on Iraq’s possession of nuclear weapons was incorrect. Plenty of negative consequences resulted from this intelligence failure, however, there is also something positive that has resulted. Of course, a few months after we learned that the Iraq intelligence was wrong, the intelligence agencies released a 2005 report on Iran that we now know to also be false. But this was the last product under the old regime, says New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti. Because of the Iraq intelligence failure, about a year and a half ago senior intelligence analysts put into place new procedures designed to improve the way in which intelligence is analyzed. For example, while agencies used to emphasis reaching a consensus and put dissenting views at the bottom of the report, they now encourage alternate views, mentioning them on the top of the report. Another change is that they now accept holes within the intelligence. Analysts are expected to be up front about what they do not know and are not expected to fill in intelligence holes with assumptions. Intelligence agencies also put a focus on red teams—groups of people who play devil’s advocate—forcing the analysts to pore over their findings. The agencies spent the summer dissecting the Iran estimate with these red teams.

Obviously Intelligence agencies will continue to make mistakes, but hopefully the big Iraq failure forced them to examine and improve their methods so that they will not make another big mistake in the future.

Deployment Proposal, Presumed Dead, Killed by Secretary Gates

On October 10, a proposal was made by high-ranking military officials that Marine units be withdrawn from Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan, where once all units were in place, the USMC would take over responsibility for operations there (under NATO command of course).

When the proposal was made, there were approximately 26,000 American forces in Afghanistan and 160,000 in Iraq, including 25,000 Marines, so the numbers do work out – more or less. Unfortunately, of the 26,000 troops in Afghanistan, there are no major marine units, so such a re-deployment would be a major undertaking logistically, and would also require the transplanted units to start from square one in dealing with local populations.

The main argument for the proposal was that it would allow the Marine Corps and the Army to manage troop levels independently; a benefit which hardly seems worth the costs mentioned above.

Anyway, since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, the focus of the armed forces has been on cooperation between the services. Splitting the Marines and the Army would certainly be a step backward in this regard.

One retired Army General pointed out that, “there’s going to be a tremendous number of Army soldiers out there, even if, quote unquote, the Marines take over the mission…There are some extraordinarily obvious flaws in this. The Marines don’t bring any of the infrastructure, logistics, aviation, all of the other enablers that are necessary to fight in this environment successfully.”
After nearly two months with no real action taken on this proposal, last Friday it was officially pitched to Secretary Gates by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway. Wednesday, December 5th, the Secretary officially shot it down, citing the need to maintain Marine presence in Anbar Province, Iraq to build on security gains in recent months.

It was an interesting idea, just one that should have been suggested six years ago to have had any chance of getting approved.

The U.S. Option: No Third Sanctions

After the invasion of Iraq by the U.S., Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003 because of the impact of Iraq War as well as it did not have enough capability to produce nuclear weapons. Iran is a rational actor, because it calculated the cost-benefit effects very well. It is now advocated for its innocence for nuclear programs. So, what do you think is the next version of calculations for Iran? That will be not developing the nuclear weapons, but sending different kinds of signals to the U.S.

The U.S. and its Western allies are in the middle of two contending choices: one is to loose the tension on Iranian nuclear issues, another is to impose third sanctions. Before I explain my position, let me take an example. North Korea developed nuclear programs and halted it after Geneva Agreement in 1994. There were enough rewards, like LWRs, over the compliance to the non-proliferation regime. However, I want to point out that North Korea continuously developed the nukes even during the Agreement period. Why? North Korea needed the next version of bargaining card. For dictator, the number one goal is ‘to survive’ and ‘to dictate’ like Fidel Castro. Kim, Jong Il was regarded as not so powerful than his predecessor Kim, Il Sung internally and externally. So, I think he needed a power to dominate his nations and to resists foreigners. Kim, Jong Il is realist, he only needs power.

Let’s turn to Iran. Ahmadinejad is a rationalist. He does not need a ‘absolute power.’ Domestically, he can mobilize his people against the U.S., if he can use a ‘nuclear propaganda’ properly. He deceived the Bush administration (and the NIE, too) skillfully for four years. He didn’t follow the two mild UN sanctions, but his signaling actually played a significant role to lower the U.S. prestige on the ground.

In this sense, if North Korea is a realist, Iran is a rationalist: more thoughtful and delicate (even than the U.S.). Without any nukes, he could obtain his goal easily. So, what’s the next U.S. option over Iran? There is no fixed answer, but I think the U.S. should wait for a while until this situation would changed, but not the third sanctions!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Chavez Referendum

Everyone in America should breathe a sigh of relief that Hugo Chavez’s referendum that would have essentially made him president for life failed. If it had succeeded, it would have ment that Chavez could have been a Castro like figure. The difference would have been, with the way oil revenues are right now, Chavez might have been a Castro that could have actually done something. Castro, for all practical purposes, has really done nothing since he came to power...expect keep himself in office by keeping the US embargo going. Chavez could have done so much more.

Currently Chavez has the support of Bolivia, and, at least in OPEC, he has the support of Ecuador. Brazil, after finding off shore oil reserves, is also thinking of joining OPEC. Honestly it is not hard to imagine a situation where Chavez could have used oil as a consolidating element in South America. With Chavez being the leader of the “anti-America South America” coalition it could have lead to US influence dwindling to historic lows in South America. The scary part is that Chavez is not out of office until 2013 giving him plenty of time to try this referendum again. This time elections seemed to be honest and fair, next time they may not be next time around.

Al-Qaida Revisited

The success of the Surge in Iraq has become evident as both U.S. troop casualties and Iraqi civilian deaths have decreased dramatically in recent months. The primary goal of providing better security to many parts of Iraq seems to be secure. Arming of local Iraqi tribes appears to be an even greater success in stemming local violence than the actual increase in U.S. forces. By all accounts it would seem that insurgent attacks are decreasing and Al-Qaida appears to be on the retreat.
This week, however, a senior defense official warned that the apparent defeat of Al-Qaida in Iraq could possibly lead to an increased focus by the terrorist organization on events taking place in Afghanistan. Considering that the Taliban has been gaining ground in most provinces around Afghanistan this comes as little surprise. The Taliban and Al-Qaida have always been close allies and it would seem perfectly reasonable to expect Al-Qaida to withdraw most of its forces back to Afghanistan to regroup for efforts in other parts of the world.
In response the U.S. government has proposed to follow the successful campaign in Iraq and also begin arming tribes in Afghanistan. Troop levels are to remain constant, however, as a direct request by the Marine general in Iraq for redeployment to Afghanistan has been denied by Robert Gates.
Considering the current situation in Afghanistan does it really seem like a good idea to arm the locals any further. It would appear that the country is already flooded with small arms as everyone and their brother belongs either to a local warlord militia or the Taliban. Furthermore does the denial for redeployment of Marine forces to the much more volatile Afghanistan mean abandonment of that conflict? Or perhaps the troop levels have nothing to do with the actual success of the surge? Perhaps Gates has realized that most of the surges success can be directly attributed to the rearming of Bathist who have become tired of Al-Qaida attacks. This would bode ill for the situation in Afghanistan as their are hardly any ex-military forces running around that are willing to take over security issues for the U.S. or NATO forces.

Bush Letter to Kim Jong Il

In a stunning reversal from the Axis of Evil declaration, the President sent a letter to Kim Jong Il offering the possibility of a normal relationship if the North Korean Leader leader offers to fully disclose his nuclear before the end of the year. In the letter, Bush said, "I want to emphasize that the declaration must be complete and accurate if we are to continue our progress." The administration was quick to downplay the diplomatic significance of the letter, but in my opinion it does reflect a dramatic shift in the foreign policy of this Presidency. It has been speculated that the letter might fulfill the North Korean leaders desire to be recognized. However, the White House Press Secretary was quick to point out that the letter was meant to serve as a reminder not an olive branch. Regardless of the intent, the letter is in stark contrast to prior Bush initiatives regarding the northern territory off the Korean Peninsula. Given this and other recent foreign policy actions, I only have one question, "Who are you, and what have you done with our President?"

Where in the Hell is Dick Cheney???

Is it me or has Dick Cheney went into hibernation for the winter? During the past couple of weeks, President Bush's agenda seems have to went in direct contrast to the views of VP Cheney. Last week, President Bush invited all involved parties in the Middle East to discuss possible solutions to he Israel - Palestine Conflict. This week, the NIE report came out showing that Iran has not had a nuclear weapons program since 2003. Given these events, I find it no coincidence that the Vice President has decided to go in to seclusion. It seems that President Bush has finally decided to act independently, and attack foreign policy issues from an objective perspective, instead of one based on the neo-con influence that seem to be so persuasive during his first seven years. Admitting that I have been extremely critical of the President for the past seven years, I have to say that I like the direction, as well as the initiative he has taken over the past couple of weeks to act as the President and not as pawn of his VP's ideology. I only wish he would have done it sooner.


Cyberwarfare has become a very nasty business for most of the worlds governments in the past year or so. We can call remember the Russian cyber attacks on Estonia that rocked the NATO meetings held later that year. In that conflict Russian hackers had managed to shut most of Estonia's governmental websites down so that a large number of Estonians were locked out of the internet for a couple of days. Another past example of this type of cyber attack is the hacking of the naval department by Chinese hackers looking to gain access to American technology for their own military purposes. Supposedly the information might have helped China skip a whole generation of technology in its quest to catch up to the west.
This week MI5 released a report warning the top 300 Business's that they are under sustained Chinese cyber attack. According to the report most major business in Britain is being targeted by the Chinese military in hopes of attaining knowledge that would be advantageous to Chinese companies when dealing with the Brits. Most importantly this wasn't just some report released by a sub entity within the British intelligence service but it was a report personally filed by Jonathan Evans, the current head of MI5. This certainly adds a lot of weight to the accusation levied. According to the report China's army is trying all sorts of tactics to gain access to English companies confidential data.
Of course this is nothing new to the Americans. The military was only hacked last year and maybe some very secret information was acquired by unknown but suspected Chinese hackers. This year alone the United States has recorded 37,000 attempted breaches of government and private systems. Apparently the US Air Force has been placed in charge of cyber-defense as it currently has a 40,000 people set up to prepare for the next cyber-war.
This certainly raises some very interesting questions about he future of war. Especially since apparently military installations or government resources are not the only targets any more. With increased globalization it would seem that cyber attacks are increasingly occurring against private companies. However, all military should be well prepared for this new line of attack.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Simmering Threat in Europe

Keeping former-Yugoslavians from killing each other has been a frustrating challenge for the EU, the US and the UN for the last twenty or so years, and it seems a new chapter in that conflict may be about to begin.

The ‘troika’ of the US, the EU and Russia has failed to broker an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia regarding Kosovar independence, and now as Kosovo seeks an audience with the UN, Vuk Jeremic, Serbian foreign minister, is threatening retaliatory measures ranging from "soft to very hard." This threat is directed not only against Kosovo itself, but also foreign powers that attempt to intervene.

While the thought of Serbian retaliation against foreign powers is pretty laughable, the threat Serbia poses to Kosovo, its people and the UN peacekeepers stationed there is very real, and the United States and Europe must remain vigilant and prepared to intervene forcefully, should relations between Kosovo and Serbia degrade once again to a state of all-out war.

Got Nukes?

Everyone is jumping at the chance to comment on the revelations about Iran's nuclear-program-that-isn't. This all well and good, but remember that they have potential.

However, even if Iran did go nuclear, is it a major worry? Nukes in the hands of Islamic revolutionaries sounds spooky, but consider the real application of nuclear weapons: deterrence.

If Iran were nuclear, then she could not be attacked with nuclear weapons for fear of reprisal. That's the result, welcome to the club. If Iran launched on Israel, or almost any other state for that matter, she would be eliminated. If her nuclear materials were used by a terrorist cell, she would be eliminated. In a sense, going nuclear would almost usher Iran into the big-boy realm of international politics and force her to be a rational actor, and less of a mouthy tart.

Fewer nukes in the world is always a good thing, there can be no illusion of this fact. However, proliferation is going to happen, and some of it we are thinking of sponsoring (India). As long as the "nuclear taboo" is respected, then nuclear states will still fight conventional wars with little incentive to use their nuclear arsenal. To do so is suicide.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ahmadinejad Caught with Toy Gun

So, according to a recently published NIE, Iran's nuclear program was halted in 2003. Most are discussing the question, why has the US been all over them if they don't have anything? I think an equally, if not more important question is, why has Iran's President been acting defiant and insisting on his country's right to nuclear arms, if they are not developing any? It would be one thing if he had been vehemently denying the nuclear program, only to be proved right. But he seemed more convinced of the program's existence than President Bush.

Here's my theory, though it may be out there - Ahmadinejad saw this as a unique opportunity to act like a bully, primarily towards Israel. It's easier to threaten a neighbor when you have a significant deterrent capability, which Iran obviously does not. It also might have led Iran to feel more comfortable supporting insurgents in Iraq, thinking that the US and others were afraid of their capabilities.

If this was the case, Ahmadinejad almost brought his country complete destruction at the hands of the US and Israel, who were afraid of the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and would have done anything to stop such a situation. On the whole, though, the entire situation is inexplicable, and makes no sense from either side. Something tells me that we're not done with this issue.

Iran: A Rational Actor?

It seems that the murkiness behind Iran’s decision making is clearing. Realists always say that their theory has explanatory power when it comes to major policy decisions. We can safely say that a countries decision to halt or resume a nuclear weapons program is a major policy decision. The National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday concludes that Iran halted its program in 2003 in response to international pressure. This leads them to believe that “Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

If it is true that Iran makes decisions based on cost-benefit approach then it is a critical time for US policy makers. The good news is that we know which direction to start thinking. If Iran is rational then it will respond to pressure. The hard parts, though, are knowing what type of pressure—carrots or sticks—would be the most effective and how much pressure would be effective. The estimate comments on this: “some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.” The estimate gives the obvious conclusion that it is “difficult” to suggest what this combination could be.


According to the recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program is overstated. The report, titled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities", assesses the status of its nuclear weapons program and provides a 10 year outlook. It paints a decidedly different picture than the 2005 NIE, and among its key findings are:

-Iran halted its weapons program in 2003 .
-Tehran is less determined to developed nuclear weapons than previously judged.
-Iran will not be technically capable of producing a nuclear weapon before 2015.
-Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce weapons if it chooses.

One reason why the new estimate reaches such a different conclusion is that the Directors of the Clandestine Service, DIA, NGA, NSA, and State INR are now required to submit separate assessments to highlight respective strengths and weaknesses. This change, instituted during the last year and a half, is important because these agencies often hold quite different opinions. For instance, in the 2007 NIE the INR states that "Iran cannot achieve nuclear weapons capability before 2013 due to foreseeable technical and programmatic problems", the other agencies believe the earliest concievable date is closer to 2010.

The 2007 NIE carefully defines its "estimative language" so when it attaches the phrase"high confidence" it means the agencies are in agreement and, further, the judgments are based on high-quality information. Therefore we can deduce that the Intelligence community, almost unanimously, believes that Iran halted its weapons program in 2003.

The report should have had domestic implications, specifically on the Bush Administration, who might want to temper the harsh rhetoric in the wake of this report. It would appear that, since the intelligence community is unified in these judgements, they can no longer selectively dismiss intelligence assessments. Amazingly, Bush has somehow spun the estimate as a warning, highlighting the unlikely "could happen" judgments of instead of the high confidence judgments of what has actually occurred.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Call Up the EDA!

In light of Russia's recent spell of odd behavior, perhaps it is time to think more seriously about the European Defence Agency.

This week, Putin suspended Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty which served to limit the size of standing armies in Europe. This all may have been simply a keen bit of political posturing prior to the Russian elections, but combined with the other ways in which Putin has been sabre-rattling of late, it should not be brushed aside too easily.

The stated goals of the EDA are to "develop defence capabilities, promote Defence Research and Technology, promote arms cooperation" and create "a competitive European Defence Equipment Market and strengthening the European Defence, Technological and Industrial Base."

With the United States bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet eye-balling Iran, the European nations need to aware of the fact that they are more vulnerable. As of now, the EDA has ongoing training and police mission throughout the world which are admirable. However, with an unruly Russia in their midst, now might be a good time to present a more united military front to Russia. Besides, something needs to usurp NATO and oblige the US to play less of a role in Europe militarily.