Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evolution of Cyberspace, What Does This Mean for National Security?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/30/business/30pipes.html?th&emc=th
I found this article from The New York Times to be interesting because it highlights some of the issues stemming from the global evolution of the internet in the 21st century, especially those pertaining to the undeterminable affects this has on national security. The article notes that the U. S. intelligence community has not placed a heavy emphasis on acquiring more knowledge about the effects that the internet could possibly have on national security mainly because it hasn’t really had to. Since 1998, the United States has carried “70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic”; however, a recent estimate shows the U.S. currently carrying only around “25 percent”.

Now that this revolutionary invention has spread rapidly all over the world, and continues to do so, it seems that the intelligence community will have no other option than to gather more information pertaining to the relationship of the net and national security. More exclusively, what role will the use of the internet play in terrorism? John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, claims that “We’ve given terrorists a free ride in cyberspace.” If so, what actions will the government take to eliminate this “free ride”, if any?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Presentation Schedule

Here's the provisional schedule:

2- Frost
3- Waddell, Alaina Stephens
4- Mains, Beineke
5- Willett, Crawford
6- Laura Stephens
7- Chami
8- Feeney
9- Sewell, Barker
10- Rush
11- Reed
12- McKinney
13- Smith

Let me know if there are any problems, or if I skipped anyone.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Deterring America

Why do wars, which are costly for both sides, continue to occur? In looking for a rationalist explanation, James Fearon concluded that rational, cost-benefit analysis can break down because one side has information the other side does not and that there are incentives to misrepresent your capabilites and/or willingness to fight.

Why did the U.S invade Iraq when there existed a wide range of less costly compromises that were acceptable to both sides? It is obvious that Sadam adopted a risky strategy. He decided to misrepresent Iraq's capabilites vis-a-vis their nuclear weapons program. However, even if he had not done so, there are a variety of other reasons that the cost-benefit analysis on the U.S. side would have failed.

It is almost fair to say Benefit was seen as great (Cheney's comments of the amount of oil that would enter the world market soon after toppling the Iraqi regime) and Cost was seen as next to zero. The analysis failed - the costs were not accurately assessed. The number of troops it would take, the time commitment, the complicated Iraqi political environment, and the domestic political costs. Would conciliatory measures on Sadam's part deterred a U.S. invasion? Nothing short of going into exile would have shifted the distorted cost-benefit picture of the U.S. administration to an alternative other than war.

Is Iran willing to misrepresent its capabilities and suffer a similar fate as Iraq? When U.S. rhetoric has pushed for regime change at the same time for an end to a nuclear program - we are in effect saying " Please get rid of the only thing that makes us worry about you so that we can then get rid of you."

In studying when deterrents actually work, Russet and Huth made two conclusions (among others):

- Excessively conciliatory bargaining behavior undermines credibility and therefore, deterrence.

- Excessively hostile threats provoke hostile responses and trigger an upward spiral of escalation

Regarding the second conclusion, we must take into account the domestic political atmosphere in which Ahmadinejad operates. Plenty of studies say the Iranian population is West-ward looking and don't want confrontation. However, excessively hostile rhetoric could lead them to feel isolated and threatened - therefore sending their support behind a leader who will protect them.

Regarding the first - at the end of the day there are may nations who do not want to see a nuclear Iran and there are many avenues of pressure to pursue given enough political capital in Washington. There is no international capital there to spend now. A new administration would have some and bargaining, in this situation, does not hold the risk of undermining credibility. We stand to lose nothing through a dialogue. If it doesn't work, there are always the bombs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Response to Obesity Post

This is in response to this post, just a few below this one.

Interesting idea, but your comments brought to mind many questions that you don't address. Where does my body end and the "National Interest" begin? You bring up an interesting point, but do you really think that a politician advocating healthy eating will do anything to stem obesity? And isn't it my right as a person to eat whatever I please? We aren't talking about food terrorism here, if I eat a pint of ice cream every night sitting on my couch, who is that hurting besides me? My size doesn't affect the national interest, does it? Don't I have the right to eat what I choose, even if it's unhealthy? Does the government have a right to step in?

It's not about food education. The government builds food pyramids, it gives awards for presidential fitness, it (as Dr Farley pointed out in his comment) created some national health initiatives to increase the fitness of our military, but obesity is still on the rise. Why? Because the kind of eating that creates morbid obesity doesn't have anything to do with logic. I'm sure that the majority of the obese people in this country know that they are unhealthy, know that they eat the wrong foods and know what they should be doing even though they don't. They know they should exercise more but "just don't feel like it" and no amount of education or advocation by the government or political candidates will make people get up off the couch.

Obesity isn't a result of ignorance. People aren't overweight because they don't realize that french fries and cheesecake are fattening. Believe me, they know. Just like smokers know that cigarettes are bad, alcoholics know that alcohol can ruin lives, and heroin addicts know that their drug of choice may kill them. These problems can't be solved by logic.

If the government does see obesity (and other addictions like smoking, alcohol and drugs) as true issues of national security, then the government must decide the amount of resources and type of resources to solve the problem. The government may need to create deterrents, or help to fund counseling for these addictions. The US does not currently have a national health system (though that may change depending on the outcome in November) but some European countries do. In the UK, a debate has begun over whether the National Health Service can deny medical treatment to people who live unhealthy lifestyles. This article mentions the idea of the government providing cash incentives to people to lose weight so as to not become too much of a burden on the state health service. Although the obesity rate in the UK isn't as high as the US, it is the highest in Europe. British taxpayers spend £7 billion a year due to obesity. Because this is a "self-inflicted" condition, does the NHS have the right to deny them care?

And at what point do we allow the national values to dictate how we citizens live our lives? Some may see obesity as a drain on resources, a health risk, or creating a "bad image" for the US abroad, but if I am happy being overweight do I have the responsibility to change my lifestyle so that my country can appear better to foreigners? Should the US create a nanny state that limits what type of foods I can ingest, or punishes me for eating too much?

As mentioned in class, national interests require trade-offs. Are Americans willing to give up the freedom to eat what they want?

As someone mentioned in class...

Here is the Chinese response to the Russian attack on Georgia. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization officially supported Russia's role in bringing stability to the region, but also came down sharply on maintaining the territorial integrity of the region. Meaning: No Separatism!

Beijing fully supports the notions of both sovereignty and territorial integrity. It has been fighting for decades to increase support for the norm of sovereignty over that of self-determination. Of course, it has a lot to lose from self-determination: about half of its land mass would probably leave. At the same time, no one doubts that the Chinese military COULD do the same things that the Russian military just did. Instead, though, China wants to build public support world-wide for its stands.

I think in the long run, the Chinese path will work out better than the Russian one.

Curbing Obesity, Is It In Our National Interest?

These days, it is hard to flip through the channels of the television without coming across the next greatest “diet and exercise plan” being marketed in an infomercial. Further, the media is always investing time in preparing informative news articles and conducting interviews concerning obesity in the United States. Even primetime television airs shows such as The Biggest Loser in hopes to motivate our society to be ever more conscious of their health. However, throughout the 2008 Presidential Campaign we have heard politicians on both sides discuss stringent issues from the war in Iraq, to healthcare, to the economic decline. However, these politicians have managed to neglect one of the most popular topics currently discussed—obesity—which is not only affecting adults, but an overwhelming number of youth.
In fact, according to research conducted by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese.” In adults, the percentages are even higher. Does this not flip on a light bulb America? Obesity is not just about appearing overweight on the outside, but there are detrimental health effects that are related to this epidemic. Some research shows the health effects from obesity are even worse than those from smoking, drinking, and poverty. Diabetes, Hypertension, Osteoarthritis, and Coronary Heart Disease are all diseases linked to obesity just to name few. So, my question is, should curbing obesity be in our national interest?
Politicians always seem to be concerned about the U.S. image abroad which essentially encompasses diverse components. Shouldn’t the appearance of U.S. visitors and vacationers abroad be considered by politicians to a greater degree than ever before? The appearance of U.S. visitors does essentially contribute to the image of the U.S. abroad especially in the twenty-first century when global travel is not just conducted by diplomats and businessmen, but even more so, by vacationers of the U.S. citizenry. I have traveled rather extensively and the overweight American society is one of the topics most forwardly addressed by foreigners. With the rise of over-seas leisure travel, altering the lifestyles of citizens to make them appear to be healthier would certainly be worthwhile to politicians concerning themselves with the U.S. image abroad.
With that being stated, the next step to consider is to what degree should the government play a role in tackling this disease? Implementing healthier food choices in public school lunch menus is certainly a feasible starting point especially regarding the youth; in fact, many local school districts throughout the nation have already taken this initiative. It would be wise for other local school districts to follow in their lead. To another extent, local politicians could promote fitness and dieting within the community alone. One Mayor has already implemented a program such as this in the city of Austin, Texas. Incidentally, it would be beneficial for more research to be conducted about the additives that are put in many of the foods being consumed. Chemicals from hormones to pesticides are put in various foods, could an overconsumption of these chemicals possibly be contributing to obesity?
In any event, if obesity is so critical, and that’s what medical doctors and researchers are telling us then why haven’t U.S. politicians addressed this topic? The movement to tackle obesity has already begun, but it is only in the early stages. A little political leadership assistance would not only help carry out the obesity initiative but it would also play an important role in promoting a healthier U.S. population at home and in the image of those abroad.

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/fitness/
http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4549/index1.html
http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/obesity_in_children_and_teens

Democratic Platform

Apparently at least one libertarian blogger is somewhat worried about the following bit from the Democratic Party Platform:

"We believe we must also be willing to consider using military force in circumstances beyond self defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability-to support friends, participate in stability and reconstruction operations, or confront mass atrocities."

Does't this just mean that the Democratic party believes that there are values of importance besides territorial integrity?

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for mentioning it.)

Deterrence and the Current Candidates

I might be mistaken, but it dawned on me this morning that I've not heard either of the major candidates for President, nor their surrogates, talk much about deterrence, or what we need to successfully engage in deterrence. This seems like it ought to be a bigger issue than ever, in the wake of the recent Russian adventure in Georgia.

A Google search seems to bear this out. I found an article by a former ambassador on the subject of helping Georgia deter Russia, and I found countless articles bemoaning/encouraging the use of deterrence. There was nothing from new stories or copies of speeches given by the candidates.

A search for "deterrence" on John McCain's website brought up a speech from nearly two years ago, where he merely said that deterrence was no longer good enough. After hunting around on the Obama website (their search function is not as robust as the one on McCain's site), I found a reference in an old speech about how American deterrent power has fallen due to the Iraq war.

And this is it. On the use of one of the most critical components of our diplomacy, the ability to convince people not to do something...there is basically nothing. The most we can tease out is that one holds deterrence in contempt and one seems to think it has some value, with no explanation beyond that.

Since the US deterrent is considered by many to be the guarantor of overall peace, it seems absurd to just sweep it under the rug, especially when so much of what the US is doing can be seen through that lens. The US is putting missiles in Poland. Is this to deter the Russians? (Poland seems to think so, snatching them up after the Georgian war.) Is this enough? Or is itlikely to enrage the Russians instead? Where are the cost-benefit analyses of these foreign policy proposals?

Public Perceptions of "National Security"




Yesterday in class, one of the issues raised was the gap between what "national security" actually means (and, as Wolfers reminds us, its attachment to national values) and the public's perception of the term "national security." The 2008 Presidential Campaign offers us an instructive example of this gap.

It has generally been accepted in the 2008 campaign that John McCain is the stronger candidate on issues of "national security". Public polling indicates that Americans rate Sen. McCain higher than Barack Obama on questions of national security, such as who is a "stronger" leader or who would better protect the country against terrorism or handle the war in Iraq. Sen. Obama's recent selection of Joe Biden as running mate was widely perceived as an attempt to make up for this disadvantage on security issues. Even Mrs. Ready-On-Day-One herself, Hillary Clinton, conceded during the primaries that Sen. McCain had "crossed the commander-in-chief threshold" while Sen. Obama had not.

I would suggest that the public, the newsmedia, & even Sen. Clinton are abiding by the old framework of "national security" discussions that Wolfers described way back in the early days of the Cold War. A study of modern security related issues doesn't really support the public perception of Sen. McCain as somehow "stronger" on these issues. It does support Wolfers' notion that the term "national security" in public parlance basically means, roughly, "threatening to blow lots of shit up."

Many of Sen. McCain's positions on these issues are out of the foreign policy mainstream or even, in my opinion, downright silly: from a long-term sustained presence in Iraq to creation of a "League of Democracies" presumably to supplant the UN to booting Russia out of the G8 (not to mention his sidekicks Sens. Lieberman & Graham's recent call for what amounts to a new Cold War).

This aspect of Campaign 2008 is evidence that, just as Wolfers described in the 1950s, a gap still exists between the actual meaning of the term national security and public perceptions of its meaning.