Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fall 2008 Final Exam

Final Exam
DIP 600: National Security Policy
December 16, 2008

Please answer one of the following three questions. Submit your exam by e-mail to Dr. Farley by 10:15am today.

1. Do pirates represent a threat to the national security of the United States? Why or why not? What kind of resources (military and diplomatic) should the United States marshal in the fight against piracy, if any?
2. In the face of an expected Taliban winter offensive, the United States military has begun to retrench around the Afghan capitol of Kabul. Should the US and the Afghan government consider direct talks with the Taliban? Why or why not?
3. The Mumbai attacks may provide what Joe Biden called an early “test” for President Obama. What US national security interests are at stake in the dispute over the attacks? What diplomatic and military resources can the United States use in order to effect a positive outcome?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mugabe to the rescue

We can all rest easy now, Robert Mugabe has officially declared Zimbabwe's crisis with cholera over. All those people dying from cholera like symptoms? Must be a coincidence. In another example of Mugabe's slipping hold on power and reality he announced Thursday that the cholera problem in his country was not a concern anymore. This despite the fact that 800 people have died from this epidemic and around 16000 are estimated to be infected. This is just the official numbers and the actually infection and death rate may be much much higher. Zimbabwe is a country that is prime for strong intervention. The US, France, and UK have all called for Mugabe to not only share power (as was the idea after the disputed elections) but now to simply leave office (according to an AP story from msnbc.com). Whether it be a last legacy act by Bush or a sign that Obama is strong and concerned about the rest of the world, intervention needs to be taken to remove Mugabe from power. No better time than now exists. He has lost allies in Africa, Western Nations agree in calling for his resignation, and his long time allies in South Africa's ruling ANC party are now divided on how to deal with him. Either through direct pressure or through having South Africa apply economic and political pressure, the US needs to step up. If even more drastic actions (covert operations, CIA/US supported coup etc.) one can expect for a coup to be relatively easy and bloodless (well ,relative for Zimbabwe) given the strong opposition to Mugabe domestically, and the simple fact the country can hardly go downhill any more. In order to show the world that the US understands the sovereignty of other nations and importance of multilateral actions, the government needs to act in a way that is widely supported and viewed as responsible and ethical (i.e. world support for removing Mugabe is high). The transition would be as easy as can be hoped for, and the country deserves a better chance to break out of its rock bottom situation.

Sewellian Tippy-Top Gunned Down

In a provocative presentation delivered in the International Intelligence class, we were introduced to the idea of a Sewellian Tippy-Top tax. While the topic is creative, there are several key problems that should have BrenTom rethinking their plans.

They suggest a minimum price of gas at $2.30 forcing citizens to pay more at the pump when the market price is lower. And who really wants that? The tax also creates a burden for those with lower incomes because it is a regressive tax so more percentage of their income goes to gas.

BrenTom’s plan was delivered yesterday to President-Elect Barack Obama. But let’s be honest…any president approving this proposal commits political suicide. How often do the American people trust the government with their tax money? Moreover, they suggested that the money earned from the tax should go to infrastructure. This could easily be money wasted. Take Lexington, for example. The city has this beautiful new infrastructure for the World Equestrian Games but how does that benefit anyone 5 or 10 years from now?

The Sewellian Tippy-Top tax plan also injures oil producers in the United States. The tax would keep the oil prices artificially low because the higher price will reduce domestic consumption. Therefore, a higher price and a lower demand.

So, while I have the greatest respect for the founders of BrenTom, I think it’s time for them to go back to the drawing board and deliver something to Obama that he can believe in.

Getting to the Root of Somali Piracy

While many may make jokes about piracy or even celebrate International Talk like a Pirate Day, piracy in the Horn of Africa is no laughing matter. This Fall has seen a tremendous spike in pirate attacks in and around the Horn of Africa. In addition, pirates have become much more daring in their targets, seizing a Ukrainian ship laden with Russian-made T-72 tanks as well as a Saudi oil tanker, the Sirius Star with its 2 million barrels of oil, nearly a fourth of Saudia Arabia's daily output. The attack on the Saudi oil tanker was particularly brazen, as the attacks occured some 450 miles off the coast, far out of the range of more "traditional" pirates. As a result, these waters have been buffered with a much stronger international naval presence. This November the Indian Navy announced that it had sunk a pirate "mother ship", a larger ship that helps extend the range of pirates by towing fast, maneuverable speed boats far out to sea. An increased naval presence will certainly test the resolve of pirates and pose a threat to their livelihood, but occasional sinkings of pirate ships will not be enough to discourage the Somali pirates. To combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, the international community will first have to deal with the root cause: the failed state of Somalia.

Since 1991, Somalia has possessed at most times a government that could be called nominal at best and non-existent at worst. Since the collapse of Siad Barre's dictatorship, Somalia has suffered through a nearly endless amount of civil war and factionalism. In the early 1990s, the United Nations attempted a peacekeeping mission to bring order to war-torn Somalia. A spike of violence in October 2003, popularized by the movie Black Hawk Down, brought the deaths of 18 Americans and nearly 1000 Somalis, and essentially killed international support for intervention in Somalia. Despite this earlier failure, a military intervention today must not be made a self-fulfilling prophesy doomed to a similar fate. Obviously a military intervention in Somalia would be highly unpopular and the United States is over-streteched and ill-poised to meet the troop demand for such an operation. Nevertheless, the West will have to act, or it will continue to see Somali piracy hurt commerce in the geopolitically important Horn of Africa. These pirates are simply hungry, desperate Somalis trying to make a living through very unsavory means. By no means am I condoning piracy, but killing and/or prosecuting pirates will do nothing to protect them until the greater attention is paid to the failed state that harbors them and allows them to thrive.

The “Change” of Intelligence: FISA

Barack Obama has promised change to the American people, but when it comes to matters of National Security, how much change will we really see? One huge issue is that of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Towards the beginning of the campaign, Obama was an opponent to FISA, claiming it infringed on the civil liberties of American citizens. So mid-way through the campaign his stance on FISA would have strongly impacted United States intelligence and potential security. At the time, his position reflected that of the liberal fringe and he was applauded by many of his supporters. He claimed the US had the ability to track down terrorists without violating the law of rights and liberties.

Although FISA does invade the privacy of American nationals, what would be the implications for national security? Opposing FISA would strongly affect America’s abilities to track terrorists on American soil and abroad. Later, Obama did realize that opposing the Act would limit intelligence gathering methods and endangering human lives. That being said, as of June 2008, Obama reversed his decision and voted for FISA even though the amendments he supported were voted down.

Many will be opposed to his “giving in” to previous policies. And although it invades the privacy of American citizens and foreign nationals, accepting the Act commits stronger values in supporting the security of the United States. Obama believes the bill is for the greater good but has pledged to carefully monitor the program. But will the public be accepting of this or resent him for not standing a firmer ground?....only time will tell.

A “War of the Willing” is waning

Through the short history of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and US military has worked hard to convey to the American population the extent to which the war has been a multilateral effort. Reports show that, at one point, as many as 34 countries made contributions to the military effort.

There are now as few as 7 countries supporting the efforts with the recently announced discontinued support of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Moldova, Estonia, Tonga, South Korea, Romania and the Czech Republic as of the end of 2008. Great Britain recently announced its plans to drastically reduce its troop levels to 400 by June of 2009. This could be brushed off as another loss, as the American forces can soak up the loss of only a couple hundred soldiers. Britains made up more than 15% of the original invasion’s force, and still have a stake of around 4000 troops in the country.

It is fair to admit that our country hasn’t done a great job of rallying the nations of the world behind our plunge into the “Middle East’s” front on terror, Iraq. Foreign and domestic criticism has been drawn during the Bush administration. One would suggest that it would be in the US interest to attract as much help as possible in the fight against terror. Unfortunately for our case, we are experiencing a modern day exodus of the willing.

To worsen the world’s view of our handling of the war in Iraq, Blackwater has decided that undermining the developing American-Iraqi relationship is a good idea. Six Americans working for Blackwater have recently been indicted in the killing of 17 innocent Iraqi citizens. Blackwater’s refusal to be tried in Iraqi courts has led to a security pact going into affect on January 1, allowing Iraq to prosecute private contractors. But the deed has already been done. And this was not the first occurrence of the like. With the number of privately contracted troops now outnumbering Alliance troops in the country, the frequency is sure to increase.

Why would democracies of the world want to sacrifice their youth, if the US can pay top dollar to private contractors flying high above the law? No wonder the Iraqi government still struggles to make strong gains towards autonomy from the US.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Price of Security?

(This is an excerpt of something I wrote in 2005 -which supports elements of the civil liberties post below)

“As the price of security, Americans must be prepared to cashier some freedoms, much treasure, and many lives.” These words were published in the United States Naval Institute Journal in 2001. The author continued, “Anticipating retaliation to current military actions, the West must be prepared to institutionalize a passport society, suffer racial profiling, federalize security for airlines, expand search and seizure, and permit extremes in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Later, it may be necessary to militarize labor, the borders, and civil society in general, and to practice armed retaliation against suspected terrorists and their safe havens.” It is hard to imagine these things taking place in America, yet the pieces are in place for at least four of those things. Search and seizure has been expanded under the Patriot Act. No warrant is necessary now.

The Supreme Court, in the landmark case Terry v. Ohio, (1968), ruled that law enforcement officials could stop someone as long as their was reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is taking place. From this ruling, the concept of racial profiling arose. These ‘objective’ stops were being targeted at disproportionate numbers of black and brown people. When investigating the 9/11 attacks in the days that followed, law enforcement could not deny the fact that the crime was committed by men of middle-eastern descent. The prime suspects, therefore, were individuals with a specific national origin and ethnic background. Later, the religion (Islam) was a factor used to narrow the search.

Has the United States permitted extremes in investigating suspected terrorists? The release of the “torture memos” in 2004 is ample evidence that the government overlooked known torturous activity taking place in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanomo Bay. Harvard’s champion for human rights, Allen Dershowitz proposed a “torture warrant”. He argued that when you have the lives of millions on the line and a terrorist in custody that could prevent it, then torture becomes a matter of law. We have to choose the “lesser evil”, he says.

Are we moving toward a passport society? First consider the history of our I.D. cards. Driver’s licenses were originally intended to prove mental and physical capacity to drive. Now they are used as a definite form of identification. Social Security numbers were intended to provide access to a government sponsored retirement system. Now you have to have one to conduct banking activities, rent an apartment, and file taxes.

In the wake of 9/11, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, along with Dershowitz, proposed a national
I.D. card required for travel from state to state. Ellison even offered to manufacture the cards for the government. These I.D. cards would be called a ‘smart card’. An identification card with a small computer chip embedded in it. This chip would contain your financial information, medical records, criminal history, and even have a stored value used to replace paper currency. These systems are beginning to be put in place in the UK and other European countries.


That was April 2005. Now we have xray body searches at airports, congress voting on a national id act, and the 'torture memos' I alluded to turning into a full blown national debate.

Where Have Our Civil Liberties Gone?

During this holiday season Americans increase their travel via airplanes to see loved ones across our nation or overseas. During the screening process at airports, we are subjected to several inspections that infringe on our civil liberties that we hold dear in this country. Granted that I don’t have a ton of experience flying, but when I have traveled through airport security it seems that the federal government is creating more and more ways to overstep my civil liberties granted by the Constitution. At what point will Americans say enough is enough and stop letting the government infringe on their rights.

As an American, should I not be able to take a gun or knife on a plane with me if I want to? Isn’t our country founded on the principles of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights? Why does the government have the right to prevent me from doing these things?

In the current world that we live in with the Global War on Terror, Americans have seemed very willing to sacrifice their civil liberties in order to be more secure from terrorist attacks. At airports, passengers are randomly pulled aside and subjected to a process that often involves taking off one’s clothes down to their under garments. Granted that this is done behind closed doors, why should we let the government humiliate us in this manner? Americans have also accepted the consequences of the Patriot Act, which allowed federal agents to wiretap phone lines of people that had suspected ties to terrorists. What gives the government the right to listen to my private conversations?

When Americans feel threatened they are often willing to sacrifice things that they hold dear in order to be secure. However, what will Americans do if one day the government tells them that they can no longer own guns or that magazines and newspapers can’t publish articles that criticize the government? The line has to be drawn somewhere. Maybe it’s with no new airport security measures or now new laws prohibiting how guns can be used or carried. If we don’t, then the government will continue placing more restrictions on Americans’ civil liberties during times of crisis and then not remove them later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Strange Bedfellows parting ways?

To many it may seem to be ironic, even counterproductive that the country that is the target of many terrorist attacks and aggression, would partner with the country where most of these terrorist organizations were based. This would seem an opportunity to help stem the problem at its base right? Well not so much if the intelligence services that have power in that country are well known to have ties to the very organizations the US is trying to hunt down. Well strange as it may sound we all know that this is the truth about the relationship between the US and Pakistan. Over the past few years the US has courted heavily the government of Pakistan in an attempt to gain insight on terrorist activities. Increasing distrust of the Pakistani government by the public, an increasingly uncooperative Pakistani administration, and now Pakistani intelligence connection/cover-up / link to the Mumbai terror attacks. Yesterday the government of Pakistan announced it had put suspected terrorist leader Mashood Azhar under house arrest. This token action just drew scoffs from US and Indian leaders, this is the second time Azhar has been "arrested" and the evidence linking him to the 2001 Indian Parliament bombing. In addition to this non-committal act, Pakistan was quick to condemn the attacks, but has shown considerable foot dragging in working with India in investigating the attacks. This is just the latest in a series of catch and release actions that the Pakistani government does with suspected terrorist leaders. This is also just the last in a long line of actions that show that Pakistan is simply not the ally that the US once thought it was. It is not turning over key suspects to investigation, has forbade the US from conducting action on its soil, and has ISI officers with deep connections to the terrorist themselves. The US government should stop now in supporting and funding a nation that is an ally of the US in image only. Whether from deliberate deceit of the US or simply the result of a government that has lost control of its people, Pakistan is no longer the help we once hoped it would be.

Senate seat, get your Senate seat!!

It seems that not even the good ol' U S of A is free from political corruption, as we've seen in the recent scandal involving Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich. Governor Blagojevich was arrested for allegedly trying to trade or sell President-elect Barrack Obama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. This is certainly not something to be taken lightly, as several high-profile Senate seats will soon be filled, with Senators Obama, Biden and Clinton all leaving in January 2009. The dilemma is clear- do we want seats in our Senate to be open to the highest bidder, as merely political prizes that are capable of being bought? Do we then want these men (and women) to be making important decisions in the national security arena?? Obviously, the answer is no.

This scandal calls into question, however, the very long-held practice of allowing state governors to appoint interim Senators to fill part or all of an unexpired term. Some states, like Oregon and Wisconsin, do not allow the governor to make an appointment and instead hold general elections to fill any unexpired term. Five other states-Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Wyoming and Utah- place some restrictions on the governor's power to appoint an interim Senator. Perhaps all states, however, should follow the lead of Oregon and Wisconsin and remove the power of appointing interim Senators from the governor. Although elections are certainly not free from corruption, especially in Illinois (see 1960 Presidential elections), they are certainly more democratic and more difficult to influence than simply paying off a state governor.

One good sign, however, from all of this is the fact that corruption in the United States, while certainly existent, is not nearly as bad as in other countries. Unlike some countries, like Russia or Angola, corruption in America is not endemic and viewed as simply part of doing business. Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the United States 18th out of 180 surveyed countries with a score of 7.3, out of 10. While certainly not the worst, the United States must certainly approve. Putting a price on a Senate seat and offering it to the highest bidder rather than the most qualified, is a dangerous bet to make, when one considers the importance of the Senate to our national security. Governor Blagojevich should be dealt with swiftly, so other governors can be warned that an indiscretion of this magnitude is simply not acceptable.

On Terrorists and Monsters

"We're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here."

So went the Bush Administration's refrain for justifying the Iraq war for most of its second term.
General Richard Clarke nicely critiqued this theory when he called for Bush's "Puppy-dog theory of terrorism" to be put to sleep. He said:

Does the President think terrorists are puppy dogs? He keeps saying that terrorists will "follow us home" like lost dogs. This will only happen, however, he says, if we "lose" in Iraq.

The puppy dog theory is the corollary to earlier sloganeering that proved the President had never studied logic: "We are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we will not have to face them and fight them in the streets of our own cities."

Remarkably, in his attempt to embrace the failed Iraqi adventure even more than the President, Sen. John McCain is now parroting the line. "We lose this war and come home, they'll follow us home," he says.

What's truly odd is how this three year-old's theory about monsters matches precisely with Bush's theory of terrorism. "If he gonna come in here....he will kick my ass....so I'm gonna kick his ass!"

An Agent of Change = A Prime Target

In the United States, the concept of national security is often thought of in terms of borders, bombs, and the balance of power. Government and civic officials spend countless hours and enormous sums of money on the protection and security of the citizens of the United States of America, and rightfully so. It is not often, however, that we equate national security with the safety of one man. For many different reasons, the election of Barack Obama has incited concern about the wellbeing of the president-elect and the future of the United States. The worrisome logic is as follows: How safe can America be if we cannot ensure the safety of our Commander and Chief? If our leader is vulnerable, then aren’t we as well?

This may be true, but the government is doing the most that is humanly possible to shield Obama from any looming danger. In fact, Barack Obama has been surrounded by several Secret Service agents since May 3, 2007, the earliest any candidate has been provided this type of protection in American history. With his growing popularity and his constant exposure to the public, president-elect Obama, or Renegade, is under the constant surveillance of the security guards, police, and the Secret Service. In fact, media officials and photographers have “complained about the aggressive tactics of Mr. Obama’s protectors” claiming that [they] “flank him at every stop, making photographs difficult.” During the campaign, several people standing in chairs to take pictures of the presidential candidate were ordered to get down, because their height posed a security threat to Mr. Obama.

Even more precautionary measures were taken after Obama won the presidential election. While Obama wooed the crowd with his acceptance speech, he was shielded by bullet-proof plexiglass. Nonetheless, anxieties still abound, as 500 threats against Obama’s life have already been investigated by the Secret Service. Some of the more serious threats include a gun-toting group of men from Denver and two skinheads from Tennessee who plotted to assassinate Senator Obama and kill black children while they were at school.

Though it is true that Barack Obama does face serious dangers, are they really any different than the risks taken by any other president? An attempted assassination was made on former president Ronald Reagan, without regard to the color of his skin. Can the increased vulnerability be correlated with race, or is it something else about Obama? Of course, as the first African-American president, racism will cast a shadow on his presidency. On the day after the election, stormfront.org, a popular white supremacist web site added over 2,000 members. The website has currently been shut down in order to manage the overwhelming amount of activity it received after Election Day. One Stormfront representative stated, “"I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed." No wonder people are worried.

Speaking of God and doomsday, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church suggests another reason why Obama is different from all former presidents: he’s the Antichrist. From a recent sermon comes the quote,”Woe unto Antichrist Obama ! Woe unto his henchmen comprising his campaign team, his so-called transition team, his administration, and the doomed nation that elected him!” It is not surprising, therefore, that some fanatical people think that he needs to go, since he will ultimately destroy the world.

One final theory appears to be the most logical; people are afraid of change. Yes, Obama is black, but, more than anything, he is different. He is “The Other.” People often have a hard time accepting “agents of change,” as Obama has declared himself. Former Secret Service agent, Joseph Funk, proposes that “in the security world, anything “new” can trigger hostility.” So, even though Obama’s skin color does rub some people the wrong way, it is possible that threats and Internet chatter have more to do with the “new” element than the race factor. But race is certainly an issue. Ask the KKK.

What's Happening in Greece and What's in Store for the Karamanlis Government?

It is hard to escape the widespread media coverage of the Greek riots that have been carrying on for days. Greek civilians, mainly youths, have been violently protesting against the police force and government ever since the police shooting and killing of fifteen year old Alexandros. Protestors have resorted to burning stores and cars, throwing stones at policemen, rioting in the streets, and using the media as an outlet to publicize their outrage concerning the situation. According an article in Time magazine, “Some 320 stores, 50 banks, and a number of civilian buildings have been damaged or destroyed in Athens.” Among these buildings was Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy and the Hellenic Parliament Foundation. Some sources reveal that an augmentation of the protests is nowhere in sight.

As an American outsider, viewing this display of outrage and disapproval being carried out by the Greek citizenry seems absurd. It makes it difficult to even analyze the situation and even more so to choose a side to sympathize with. On the one side, there are the policemen who were involved in the shooting. They claim that they were alarmed when nearly 30 youths attacked their patrol car, and out of self defense, they fired warning shots to scare the youngsters. Moreover, they say that shooting the boy was unintentional and that he was unknowingly targeted.

On the other hand, there are thousands of vexed Greeks who share a different story, one that highlights their dissatisfaction with the police. They emphasize police inadequacies of reducing high rates of crime and in the police’s refusal to answer emergency calls; furthermore, they accused the police of being corrupt. After all, this is not the first time conflicts have erupted between the two groups. In the city where the boy was shot, clashes between the police force and anarchic groups are evidently a frequent occurrence. So what has erupted into—from what an outside perceives—as an exaggerated violent episode appears to be the result of an ongoing battle.

The question posed now is how far will these youths go to get what they want, and really, what is it that they want? After all, Prime Minister Karamanlis has already promised investigations and a fair trial and the policemen involved in the situation have been taken into custody. But even though he made these statements clear on the day of the outbreak of protests, it has done little to appease the unhappy Greeks. Is it farfetched to think that maybe the protestors are pushing for a change in government? George Papandreou, leader of the center-left opposition, ridiculed Karamanlis for his government’s inability to control the situation and suggested that his government step down. Is it unlikely that Karamanlis’s government will step down? It is hard to say, but I wouldn’t exclude this as an option. Not only is Karamanlis’s government faced with these violent riots but Greek unions have staged a strike in protest against the government’s economic policies. It looks as though Karamanlis has a lot of social unrest to deal with and how he and his government plan to do so is uncertain.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Food For Thought

Appropriate for the holiday season as we gorge ourselves, two weeks ago, the Daewoo Logistics Corporation of South Korea announced it had set up an agreement with the government of Madagascar to lease 1.3 million hectares (thats the measurement used in regards to fields and crops, in this case its about half the size of Belgium) for 99 years to plant corn and palm oil fields. This food and biofuel is to be exclusively repatriated back to Korea (3/4 of the land will be corn). What does this have to do with national security? Agriculture and food is the quintessential necessary industrial to support a stable government, effective military, and workforce population. In the US our food industries are so well developed we hardly consider the effect a war/natural disaster/ect. would have on our food supply. We are hardly affected by the ongoing world food price crisis but from Haiti to Egypt riots and violence are spreading. Korea is attempting to avoid this issue but unlike the US is not blessed with an incredibly productive climate and land system suitable for farming. In leasing this land (which will be ran and managed by Koreans but worked by people from Madagascar) some fear Korea is jump starting a neo-colonialism idea. Several Middle-Eastern countries have done this on a smaller scale in other African countries already. The people of Madagascar would benefit more from effective government assistance and land reform that allowed them to grow their own food (starvation is rampant in the country) then the meager wages they will receive. The lease is giving more than one third of Madagascar's arable land to another nation. This is simply modern Tenet farming and that practice has been abandoned as corrupt and unfair in developed countries. The governments of these poor countries are quick to court these types of deals since like any natural resource boom (or trap, as the Bottom Billion book suggests) is sure to swell the pockets of those in power. Also, in the worst case scenarios, Korea may be forced to station troops in Madagascar to protect its property and vital national interests, something that clearly has the potential to create tensions and all out conflict in the future.
While this idea may seem like a great idea for Korea, the benefits to the other countries involved are so minor it borders (or fits well into) the definition of national exploitation, something that no responsible government should condone.

Article originally posted in the Financial Times, November 22, by Javier Blas

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Again! dem Chinese.

As you may already know, the growing strength of China continues to generate new and evermore serious threats to U.S. national interests. According to al Jazeera we have one more reason to worry. The pertinent article, titled, "China 'winning cyber war' US told" expounds on a recently released congressional report which details the reality and strength of Chinese cyber-intelligence operations aimed at the United States. Unsurprisingly, the conclusion of the report enumerates the significant security and economic concerns precipitated by the success of Chinese operations and the exposure of U.S. interests.

To begin, the report examines the staggering exposure of sensitive information vital to U.S. interests. Chinese hacker have successfully penetrated the websites and networks operated by the U.S. government, defense contractors, and private businesses. Obviously, this situation undermines the effective synthesis of intelligence, the successful execution of U.S. intelligence operations, and places the intelligence network and private firms in a strategically weaker position.

Having acknowledged this scenario, the reality of an asymetric advantage for the Chinese becomes ever-larger. With no effective defense in place, and theoretcially all essential/sensitive networks compromised, the United States is in danger of meekly surrendering invaluable strength and influence through a leaking pipe. This loss of control and containment in turn jeopardizes the strength and capabilities of the military, economic, and diplomatic operations of the United States.

In addition, the report contemplates the possibility of U.S. conventional forces being weakened by the effective conduct of Chinese-originated cyber-warfare operations. Porous communication lines as well as compromised schematic and strategic plans would likely mean the loss of effective force projection, mobilization, and implementation. This scenario would be indescribably dangerous to U.S. interests.

In conclusion, the reality of Chinese cyber-warfare capabilities - and their obvious and unabashed commitment to expanding such capabilities - places the U.S. in a critical zone of strategic decision. The U.S. must obviously alter its approach to dealing with this new and increasingly dangerous Chinese capability. However, the challenge is determining whether to devote resources to offense or defense. Does the U.S. attempt to secure an already compromised communication network (which has become indispensable in speed and integration) or does it increase its own capabilities to penetrate Chinese networks, gather intelligence, and perhaps disrupt operations on the other end of the spectrum.

Sweet and Sour China?

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article on the impact the global financial crisis is having on migrant workers in China. According to the article, migrants in China's urban centers are losing jobs quickly as employers seek to let them go due to the decline in demand for Chinese goods. Many of these workers are returning to their homes in China's rural areas, but this mass migration from the urban to rural areas is having an impact on issues from food security to social unrest.

Migrant workers returning to their farms in the rural areas face issues of food insecurity because they no longer have an income level that allows them to provide for their families. They also face problems resulting from and inability to farm lands either because the lands have been leased to cooperatives, or because migrants do not know how to grow food. Some do not even have the necessary resources to produce enough food to subsist. With a rise in migration from the cities to rural areas, China faces major issues of instability.

Stability in China is a major issue for the Chinese government. As long as the global financial crisis continues, Chinese workers will worry about having jobs. As world demand for cheap Chinese goods falls, China risks continued unrest due to unemployment and migration. As unemployment rises, maintaining stability becomes more difficult. Perry Link, professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton, in an interview for Harper's Magazine in August 2008, notes that "Anger over the growing gap between rich and poor is a fundamental cause of instability in China." As migrants return home, they may become increasingly resentful toward the wealthier middle class.

The individuals currently facing unemployment in China are predominantly the rural poor. The key to stability in China is the satisfaction of the middle class, and as long as the Chinese government can protect the middle class from the unrest and dissatisfaction of the rural poor, it will be able to maintain stability. If not, then China may face a new domestic crisis, which might force China's government to turn toward its own problems and away from its foreign policy emphases. This could have implications for China's actions in Africa.

Ian Taylor's work on China's engagement in Africa in the 1990s suggests that prior to the Tiananmen Square incident in China in 1989, Chinese aid to Africa had declined rapidly through the 1980s as China began to focus more on domestic growth in relation to the United States and Japan. Due to the current financial crisis, African nations could see a repeat of this policy. In the last several years, Chinese aid to Africa has increased dramatically. China's increased need for natural resources, especially oil, has pushed the policy for investment in Africa. China currently supports many autocratic regimes on the continent, and these regimes receive a lot of their financial support from China. If China has to focus on preventing a domestic uprising, it may opt to decrease or even end its emphasis on aid in Africa. China's problems at home could contribute to global instability if the country cannot continue to assist Africa's poor as well.

Western aid to Africa has already seen a decline as Western nations are consumed with preventing complete financial meltdown at home. Should China cease financial aid to Africa as well, there could be serious repercussions as African leaders and nations face a potential shortfall of financial resources. There are perhaps other consequences for Chinese economic decline. Already China is facing a sharp decline in economic growth for at least the next year. Continued decline for one of the most important manufacturing economies could have further implications on escaping the current financial crisis, not just in China, but around the world.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is AIDS still really an issue?

We couldn't let World AIDS Day pass without having some sort of HIV/AIDS post, could we?

Does anyone else remember how rocked the world was when Magic Johnson announced on November 7, 1991 that he was HIV positive? It was the first celebrity that had been diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS and was viewed as a death sentence. Most people believed that Magic would be dead before the year 2000. So here we are 17 years later and no one ever connects(at least publicly) Magic Johnson and AIDS anymore. How did that happen?

A lot has changed in the world since 1991 on the AIDS front. While there is still currently no cure for HIV, potent drug cocktails and lifestyle changes can push the disease into remission. This has caused many doctors and other experts to wonder as to whether or not HIV is the disease it was all cracked up to be.

In 1991, the question was for the quality of life for AIDS patients. Can they lead semi-normal lives? In 2008, the question has vastly changed. Now the question is if we spend too much on AIDS prevention and research.

HIV/AIDS has been, at least, contained in much of the world. True, it remains rampant in parts of Africa but the vast majority of the world has the spread of the disease under control. Couple that with the drug cocktails and those afflicted are leading very normal, long lives. No longer is the disease a death sentence. These developments have driven many to believe that too many dollars are allocated to AIDS. "AIDS is a terrible humanitarian tragedy, but it's just one of many terrible humanitarian tragedies," said Jeremy Shiffman, who studies health spending at Syracuse University. In fact, donations from the West for AIDS in Africa routinely outstrip the health budgets for countries like Uganda and Rwanda. This may seem all well and good, but then you must know that diarrhea kills 5 times as many people as HIV/AIDS in Africa. At last check, we didn't celebrate World Diarrhea Day. I would imagine we'd use a brown ribbon to commemorate that.

We should be proud of our accomplishments. We've taken a once-deadly disease and effectively neutralized it in a majority of the world. But has the time come to withdraw and reallocate some resources when it comes to the fight against AIDS? The red ribbon cause continues to be one of the sexiest out there, but at this point are we allowing more people to die because we're too fixated on AIDS?