Thursday, November 29, 2012

Saying 'So Long' to the Pipe: The Growth and Development of LNG

In the past decade we have seen a significant growth in liquified natural gas (LNG) technologies. The United States is developing techniques that can harness previously inaccessible reservoirs of natural gas. Exporters are developing new cargo containers and tankers to transport LNG across any terrain. All over Europe, states are allocating funds for the building of new LNG import and conversion facilities in order to handle the new medium. The demand for natural gas exports is not slowing down, and any technology that can deliver natural gas to markets quickly and more efficiently is essential. This discussion on LNG addresses how these developments in energy technology can have a significant influence in solving the security concerns of some states, and creating some for others.

The Technology

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are two primary technologies that are revolutionizing natural gas extraction. Reservoirs that were previously inaccessible due to technology or cost limitations are now economically reachable.  To see how these technologies are effective, observe the two well formations in Figure 1. The vertical wells are relatively easy to drill when extracting natural gas that lies horizontally in the ground, that is, as long as the gas doesn’t lie beneath dense rock formations. However, natural gas lying in vertical wells or beneath shale formations has historically been very difficult to access.  Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling tackle these extraction difficulties.

Using a pressurized liquid, such as water, hydraulic fracturing creates cracks in dense rock allowing drills to create wellbores that access the natural gas below it. After getting past the shale, wells can be drilled horizontally in order to extract vertical pipelines of natural gas more efficiently. In the past 10 years these technologies have become integrated into natural gas extraction techniques leading to the increase in U.S. production seen in Table 1.

Table 1: Natural Gas (NG) Consumption and Production
(Data acquired from the U.S. Energy Information Administration)
Consumption (million cubic feet)
Production (million cubic feet)
% of U.S. NG consumption produced in the U.S.

Production of natural gas has also become more viable with the growth and development of LNG conversion, storage, and transport facilities. LNG sufficiently solves the transportation problems associated with natural gas. Previously only transportable by metal pipes, natural gas reservoirs could only be tapped if they were near markets. If pipes couldn’t reach the potential market, there was no other way for the natural gas to get there. However, with the growth in LNG technology, natural gas can be converted to liquid form by reducing the temperature to around -163°C, allowing it to be transported to any market. When converted to a liquid, natural gas also becomes 600 times denser, taking up less volume and making it easier to transport.

Policy and Politics

The United States hasn’t had the luxury of being a natural gas exporter for two reasons. First, as seen by Table 1, it consumes almost everything it produces. Second, even if the United States did have an abundance of natural gas to begin exporting, oceans separate the United States from the major markets in Europe and Asia. LNG technology removes distance and topography as an exporting constraint. As natural gas prices drop in the United States ($88 per mcm), companies will be looking to export to regions with higher prices in order to maintain healthy revenues (Europe - $409 per mcm; Japan- $589 per mcm). Where the United States decides to export could dramatically change politics and policy in that region.

For instance, Russia is a state that typically uses other states’ energy dependency as a political tool. Russia is currently the leader in natural gas production with the EU accounting for 44% of those exports.  As the EU looks to fulfill their Kyoto protocol obligations, and as many member states shift away from nuclear power after the Fukushima incident, Russia’s clean-burning natural gas looks like a very attractive energy alternative.

Russia is fully aware of the EU’s energy dependency, and is using it to facilitate technology transfers that will help modernize and grow the current Russian state. We have also begun to see Russia taking strategic action to increase EU energy dependency in order to strengthen their political leverage in the region. In 2002, Russia made a deal with Kazakhstan that allowed them full access to Russia’s gas transportation infrastructure. This causes them to be fully dependent on Russia for transporting their exports. Thus, no one gets Kazakh natural gas without going through Russia.  Russia has also been increasing natural gas imports from the Central Asian countries, allowing for more state-produced natural gas to be sold to Europe.

LNG technology will have the potential to diversify the European natural gas market and decrease dependency on Russia. The growth of LNG import and conversion facilities in Europe, the United States’ future role as an LNG exporter, and the spread of LNG technology to other producing regions in the Middle East, North Africa, and the South Pacific, is giving Europe more options for fulfilling their energy needs. More options equals less dependency on Russia. If Russia loses this dependency they will no longer have significant influence in European policy and politics.

With Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas growing, it would be a strategic interest of the United States to try and provide alternatives for European energy demands. In doing so, the United States would be thwarting the ‘relationship of necessity’ developing between Europe and Russia. It would also eliminate one of the few cards Russia has to play in negotiating with Europe. If the United States manages to do this successfully, we will most likely see an increase in Russian aggression as they begin to feel their national security is being compromised.   

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

War over rocks? Most likely over oil and subs.

Mounting tensions in the East and South China Seas over territorial claims to tiny, mostly uninhabited, islands threatens to drag the United States into military conflict in Asia.  The U.S. will be obligated to play some role in trying to resolve the conflict, but how exactly it should exert its influence remains undecided.

The East China Sea conflict is between Japan and China over control of five islands and three rocks known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, in China as the Diaoyu Islands.  Located between Okinawa and Taiwan, this small archipelago has been claimed by both countries for centuries.  But, predictably, they have only recently been the source of escalating tensions after discovery of possible oil reserves.  For a brief history:
1895Japan unilaterally annexes five islands and three barren rock groups in the East China Sea, calls them "Senkaku." China's Qing Dynasty later cedes Taiwan and adjacent islands to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, ending the First Sino-Japanese War.  Senkaku Islands are not included in the treaty.

1896Japan's government leases four of the islands, known in Japanese as Uotsuri, Minami, Kita and Kuba, to Tatsushiro Koga.

1945Japan surrenders, ending World War II, and returns Taiwan and adjacent islands to China in accordance with the Cairo Proclamation and Potsdam Declaration. The U.S. military takes control of the Senkaku Islands.

1969U.N. report says studies suggest the presence of large oil reserves in the waters of the Senkaku chain.

1971Taiwan, China, officially claim sovereignty over the islands, calling them "Diaoyu."

1972Japan regains control of Okinawa and the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands from the United States.  Tokyo agrees to let the U.S. military use Kuba and Taisho as firing ranges for an "indefinite" period.  Japan's defense ministry begins renting Kuba from its owners to ensure U.S. access to the island. Zenji Koga begins the process of selling Kuba, Uotsuri, Minami and Kita to the Kurihara family.  Sale completed in 1988.

2010September: Japanese coast guard ships collide with a Chinese trawler as they try to chase it from the waters around the islands.  Japanese authorities detain the Chinese captain for two weeks, upsetting China, which responds by suspending political and cultural exchanges and stopping rare earth exports to Japan.

2012July: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says the central government is in talks to buy the islands from the Kurihara family.
August 15: 14 pro-China activists sail to the islands to assert Chinese sovereignty claims.  Five swim ashore before the Japanese coast guard detains all the activists and deports them.
August 19: Japanese nationalists land on Uotsuri to assert Japan's sovereignty claim, ignoring Tokyo's warning that the landing is unauthorized. 
China says that "it is not trying to become an offensive naval power, but wants to secure its energy imports and boost development of maritime natural resources, which are expected to represent 10 percent of its economy by 2015."  A more pertinent explanation for China's more assertive claims over the islands, however, may be the U.S.'s "pivot" towards Asia -- a strategic reorientation of U.S. emphasis into the Pacific Rim.  China has become increasingly alarmed by the U.S.'s movement of military and diplomatic resources into its backyard.  In response to that reallocation, China is building up its military. 

According to Sam Roggeveen, an Asian defense analyst with the Lowy Institute in Sydney, "China has ambitions to become the premier military power among its regional peers, and [to become] a serious threat to U.S. maritime primacy in the Asia Pacific."  That reflects similar analysis from Sumihiko Kawamura, a retired commander of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.  "Kawamura believes Beijing is trying to turn the South China Sea into 'a safe haven' for its nuclear-powered submarines, which are armed with ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. For that purpose, seizing the Senkakus — just 190 km east of Taiwan and close to the northern gateway to the South China Sea — is indispensable." Being able to sneak nuclear-armed submarines into the Pacific Ocean from the East China Sea would allow China to hit the 48 U.S. continental states thereby dramatically increasing its nuclear deterence capacbility.

The South China Sea conflict similarly involves control over oil and gas reserves as well as strategic military outposts.  But five countries (China, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam) are involved in the dispute, increasing the complexity of any negotiation.  These territorial disputes concern the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has been ratified by all the countries in this conflict.  UNCLOS conveys title to each country over water 200 nautical miles beyond their "territorial waters" (so-called Exclusive Economic Zones [EEZ]).  China, however, claims most of the territory in the South China Sea by virtue of its self-imposed "nine-dashed" line (also called U-shaped line).  As you can see in the map, the nine-dashed line covers much the other countries' EEZs.  Moreover, China does not want to follow dispute resolution mechanisms in UNCLOS and prefers instead to negotiate bilateral agreements.

The United States has a security alliance with the Philippines, the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, that further complicates the conflict.  We regularly conduct joint military exercises with them and have recently reopened a military base in the country.  Any military conflict between China and the Philippines could drag in the U.S.

There might be reason to hope that tensions will dampen on their own.  The U.S. (which has security agreements with countries involved in the conflict), China, and South Korea (which also has a dispute with China over another island) have all recently undergone political transitions.  During the U.S. election, both Obama and Romney employed heated rhetoric towards China for some of its trade and human rights policies.  And China has been confrontation, possibly to display power in the face of criticism and to allay internal nationalist fervor.  After Korea finishes its election, the conflict might de-escalate for a short time though a final resolution will be needed to solidify long-term peace.

The myriad of issues in these two conflicts certain affect the United States interest in the region.  We want peace.  And we want economic prosperity to continue.  But the stakes are high.  Despite each country's stated claim -- that sovereignty over rocks is an imperative national interest -- the real quest is over access to oil and military control over a strategic region.  And given China's emergence as the regional heavyweight and the U.S.'s "pivot" toward Asia, don't expect a resolution to this conflict any time soon.  The best we can hope for is the status quo where no rockets have yet been fired and cooler heads can prevail.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Framework For Thinking About Cyber Security Policy

An article on the technical blog Ars Technica gives an interesting perspective on cyber war that should be taken into consideration when developing policies for US cyber security. The article, based on a study by Dr. Ian Brown out of the Oxford Internet Institute, claims that a pure cyberwar fought entirely in cyberspace is highly unlikely. Current cyber attacks and cyber weapons exploit known vulnerabilities in computer systems. Once an attack has been executed, top security and technical firms begin developing counter measures to 1. Fix the vulnerability and 2. Restore currently vulnerable systems. This reduces any ability to reuse a cyber weapon. This isn’t to say that similar techniques can’t be reused to exploit other vulnerabilities, but verbatim reuse of a cyber weapon is almost impossible. Because of this, long-term cyber warfare conducted in cyberspace, the way we think of conventional warfare conducted in physical space, is almost impossible. If a vulnerability has been patched, the only way to execute another attack is to find another flaw in the system. Thus, it would be difficult to maintain frequent and continuous assaults on one system or a set of systems over time.

Keeping this in mind, the real risk of a cyber attack lies in the time frame between when an attack is launched and when the attack is detected and patched. Therefore subtlety is a cyber criminal’s best friend. The longer an attack can go unnoticed the more damage it can do. If an attack obtusely disrupts a system it will be detected and resolved much more quickly than if it quietly disrupts a system. The success of malware such as Flame takes advantage of this factor. Identified in May of 2012, file names of the main maleware component were seen as early as December 2007. This means that Flame had at least 5 years to wreak havoc on computer systems.  

It is also important to note that the greater risk in a cyber attack is to the systems and information a computer network controls and not to the computer network itself. Development of cyber weapons to disrupt systems such as Iran’s nuclear centrifuges (Stuxnet) is where the threat of a cyber attacks really lies. In securing our computer networks we can also ensure security for the infrastructure in our communications, energy, finance, food, government, health and transport systems.

What then do we need to keep in mind in developing cyber security policy? First, deterrence is nearly impossible because of the anonymity individuals can maintain when acting in cyber space. If you don’t know who is attacking you, it is quite difficult to deter them from doing so. I don’t see this characteristic of cyber space changing anytime soon either due to the strong desire to keep the Internet open and decentralized.

The best way to prevent cyber attacks from occurring is by eliminating the opportunity. In other words, software developers need to design flawless systems without significant vulnerabilities cyber criminals can exploit. It’s nearly impossible to get rid of all vulnerabilities, but requiring a stronger focus on the larger ones would be manageable. This will require changing the nature of software development entirely. If you have ever downloaded a software application from the web, only to find that you have to install ‘updates’ for the application months later - Congratulations! you have had first hand experience of the software industries ‘good enough’ mentality. Software developers no longer try to get an application working right the first time. Instead they unveil a product that works ‘good enough’ and assume that potential problems can be fixed as users detect and report them. Policy needs to be framed on changing this aspect if they ever hope to be able to manage and thwart cyber attacks.   

For more info check out.....

Implications for Turkey's authorization and deployment of Patriot missiles along Syrian border

Turkey requested the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) along the 560 mile long Syrian border to NATO. These missiles are designed to intercept aircraft or missiles, and Turkey's military officials are insisting this missile system will ensure greater security in the region. NATO members, such as Germany, fully support the defense of Turkey and its desire to implement the SAMs along the Syrian border. However, other countries like Russia, Iran, and Syria call Turkey's actions provocative, and claim the deployment of missiles would add to the region's problems.

Deployment of the Patriot missiles would augment Turkey's air defense capabilities and contribute to the deescalation of the crisis along the Turkish-Syrian border. SAMs use radar to locate incoming missiles or planes, and they are launched from large containers and are guided toward their targets. This system was extensively utilized by the US and allied troops since it was initially deployed in the late 1980s. It was previously deployed in Turkey during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Even though Syria's internal conflicts affect its regional neighbors, Syrian officials are calling Turkey's request for missiles antagonistic, and even Russia said the missile deployment could increase conflicts. The missile request possibly upset Syrian officials because the missile deployment could be seen as the first step toward implementing a no-fly zone over Syrian airspace. For months, Syrian rebels have been requesting a no-fly zone to no avail because most foreign governments do not desire to be involved in the conflict. Additionally, it is important to note, a no-fly zone in Syria would bolster the rebels' control of territory that is threatened by the Syrian government's overwhelming firepower from the air.

Turkish officials reassure the international community and opponents of the missiles by labeling the missiles as defense mechanisms. Turkey's claims are valid, especially after the multiple incidents when the Syrian military exchanged fire over Turkish soil, which quickly escalated the tensions between Turkey and Syria. Despite opposition to the missiles, Turkey is justified to use the SAMs until the conflict is resolved and threats from Syria are eliminated.

The implications for the deployment of Patriot missiles are far more positive than negative because Turkey has a valid argument to defend its border from the escalating Syrian conflict. Even though Syria, Iran, and Russia are opposed to the missiles, their arguments fall short since SAMs are defense-oriented tools, unlike medium range surface-to-surface missiles (SSM). The deployment of the SAMs is not a matter of "if missiles are deployed" but rather "when will the missiles be deployed, and how long will they be deployed?".


Class, what implications do you forecast for the deployment of the missile? Do you have any additional or alternative options for NATO's strategy for the Syrian conflict?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The threat of cellphones

The NY Times ran an article today entitled, Legality of Warrantless Cellphone Searches Goes to Courts and Legislatures. The article, written by Somini Sengupta, discusses the problem created by cell phones in legal cases. Currently, lawmakers and judges are going back and forth, trying to decide whether or not cell phones are admissible pieces of evidence in court cases. The courts are stuck on deciding if cell phones and more specifically their text messages, are "business records"or private records that would be privy to privacy protection.

This issue is in the national spotlight, and on Thursday, a Senate committee will be addressing making a few changes to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Cell phones have evolved over time, and not only can store messages, but maps with a history of where your cell phones has been, and other types of private data.

A change in the law could change the landscape of national security. Although phone taps have for years been used to track criminal activity, text messages and other data stored in cell phones have been used as evidence once officials have confiscated them. After the September 11th attacks, police and other intelligence officers used phone records to piece together a history of the hijackers and how they communicated with one another.

The book, Top Secret America, delves into the intelligence world and offers both details and criticisms of this ever-so-growing field. One of the suggestions I received from the book was that there is a need for some type of integrated informations system that would allow local, state, and federal officials to track real-time information. This collaborative effort would be updated to reflect the most current information. It would also combine records with any type of Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) received on a certain person or license plate. If cell phones and their data were allowed to be searched without a warrant, officials could use the information gleaned and run it against this national database. It would provide another way, albeit an expensive one, for officials to try and crack down on crime, while simultaneously attempting to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring. Officials could essentially immediately paint a picture, or a web to say, of a certain person's acquaintances, and see if they have any connection to anyone who is suspected of being a possible terrorist by the government.

I am by no means, advocating for the search and seizure of cell phone records without a warrant. All of us have sent some questionable text messages, I'm sure. When taken out of context, some could even be considered threatening, although that was not the original connotation. I still think there are serious issues here with the Fourth Amendment. The reason I wrote this blog on this particular issue was to see if some of us think cell phones do not require a warrant. Also, how strongly do you feel that cell phones and their data could provide assistance to national security?

Friday, November 23, 2012

“Is this seat open?”

Room at the President’s Table

 It’s been a very busy month for America, no doubt.  What, with elections, sudden sex-scandals, and (as ever) sustained instability in the Middle East it seems as though pundits and reporters scarcely have time to breathe between headlines of constant crises and breaking news.

All other things aside, the election at the beginning of the month (though it seems much longer ago) reaffirmed a second term for Barack Obama (as we’re all hopefully aware) and signaled the end of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, this post is designated to consideration concerning the soon-to-be vacated seats at the president's table. 

President Lincoln and his Cabinet at the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
(P.S.: everyone, please go see Lincoln. Please.)
Photo credit:

Secretary Clinton, of course, is not the only cabinet member to throw in the towel at the end of Obama’s first term.  This isn't unusual; many cabinet members in many administrations (both successful and dismal failures) tender their resignation at the end of their president’s first term. Other positions that might be up for grabs include the Attorney General , the Treasury Secretary, and the Secretary of Defense. These posts are currently held by Eric Holder, Timothy Geithner, and Leon Panetta respectively.   The possibility of a replacement in each post merits lengthy conversation of its own, so I’d like to focus my discussion on that of the Secretary of State—which is what we all want to know anyway.

Now for a quick civics lesson. For those of you that know the Constitution as exhaustively as I do, you’re well aware that within that document there is no explicit definition of the term “Cabinet” to be found, though there is certainly mention of it. Much information about the cabinet found in the Constitution is located in ArticleII, Section II, Clauses I & II. Clause II, specifically, notes that the:
 “[the President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassador, other public Ministers and Consuls…and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law”
—a definition under which cabinet members (or the “principal Officer in each of the executive Departments”) fall.

So, in short, the President nominates the cabinet candidate and the Senate either approves or disapproves of the choice—a political reality of which we were hopefully well aware.

Taking this under consideration, it may be somewhat surprising that this week a group of some 97 House Republicans (note: House, not Senate) sent a letter Obama’s way –challenging his potential nomination of current U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for Hillary Clinton’s job.  Or it may not be surprising at all. Nevertheless, the letter continues along the same theme that contentions regarding Ambassador Rice's potential nomination have thus far.  Which is that Rice willfully led Americans astray in regards to the real nature of the September 11 attack on the embassy at Benghazi, which led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. 

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. 
Photo credit:

According to the letter (a great read, I encourage you all to take a look and maybe grab some popcorn to fully enjoy the show), the representatives in question believed that Ambassador Rice "propagated a falsehood" and is "widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter." Due to these indiscretions, the undersigned asserted that Ambassador Rice's "actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed." They go on to argue that any efforts to appoint Ambassador Rice to the position of Secretary of State would "greatly undermine [the President's] desire to improve U.S. relations with the world and continue to build trust with the American people."

We've known for some time (really, since the immediate aftermath of Benghazi) that selecting Ambassador Rice as Secretary of State nominee for Obama's second term would spark an almighty row.  The November 17th 2012 issue of the Economist described her as the "main voice in the administration" that described the Benghazi attack, mistakenly, as "an act of mob violence, rather than terrorism." Republicans, as indicated by the above letter, have latched onto this incident and are using it to spearhead efforts to keep Rice out of this position.

The reasons for their disapproval, as so succinctly expressed in the letter to Obama, are slightly ludicrous.  As the hearings on Benghazi revealed, Rice's information came from the unclassified "talking points" drawn up by the U.S. intelligence community, and that it wasn't nearly as far off the mark as some like to claim. Furthermore, the accusation that Rice willfully mislead the American people is more than unlikely and suggestions of her incompetence are downright insulting, especially considering her experience.  As a Washington Post editorial claims, "whatever her failings, [she] is no one's fool." From there, the editorial questions whether disapproval of Ambassador Rice may be because she's black--and points out that over 80 signatures on the letters are from Congressmen who reside in states of the former Confederacy. Ouch. 

President Obama, though he has not indicated whether or not he plans to nominate Rice, has ardently defended the Ambassador in the face of such criticism, declaring complaints against her as "outrageous." Ambassador Rice certainly appears to be more than qualified for the job, and America of late appears to love minority and female Secretary of States.  Despite what House Republicans may suggest, her statements and actions have not destroyed the credibility of the United States Government at home and abroad.  She has not surrendered any potential advantage to American enemies. 

Perhaps, Republicans are so opposed to Rice because they are so in favor of Senator Kerry being nominated to Hillary Clinton's current gig. Kerry would breeze through Senatorial approval (whether he was nominated for Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense). and Republicans would vote for him at least in part because they have Scott Brown (young and recently defeated, but popular Massachusetts junior senator) waiting on the sidelines for the subsequent by-election to fill Kerry's vacated seat. 

Whoever is nominated and however the Senate chooses to Advise and Consent, it'll be interesting to watch and see who takes the seats left behind by the current cabinet. And if Rice is nominated, some foresee difficulty in attaining Senate confirmation. So, class--for discussion: who do you see appointed to the big positions? What challenges might they face in  seeking Senate confirmation? What would the repercussions of their nomination and subsequent appointments be--especially in terms of maintaining the current balance of power in Congress? And, of course, what would their nominations mean for American foreign policy and security on an international level?

HAMAS' Evolving Offensive Rocket Capabilities

The offensive rocket capabilities of HAMAS, operating primarily from the GAZA strip, have expanded with respect to sheer numbers, range, and lethality since rocket technology became a favored offensive method for the organization in the early 21st century. The Qassam series rockets remain the most widely used rocket by HAMAS today, due to several factors including low cost, high volume of production, ease of use, and portability.  The Qassam series’ low-tech construction and common components have allowed for domestic manufacturing beginning in Gaza in 2001 following the Al-Aqsa intifada.   However, the range and destructive force of this series is relatively small with a maximum range of 17 km or roughly 6.5 miles carrying a max payload of 20kg or approximately 45 pounds (Capabilities of the Qassam-4 rocket).  Due to the nonstandard manufacture of the Qassam series it is difficult to rate the casualty producing effects of the rockets.

An M107 155mm projectile which is the standard high explosive projectile for American artillery may serve as a rough standard for comparison.  Carrying a payload of approximately 7kg of high explosive (either TNT or Composition B) the M107 shell produces a kill radius of 50m and a casualty radius of 150m against human targets over flat unobstructed terrain.  This rating means at 50m from the point of impact of the shell with nothing obstructing your line of sight (trees or buildings) there is a 50% chance that you will be killed, the percentage chance of your death rises to 100% as you get closer to the point of impact.    

Rocket staged atop impovised launching apparatus
The effectiveness of the Qassam series has prompted HAMAS to smuggle more advanced rockets that are beyond their own domestic manufacturing capabilities into Gaza.  The Grad series of rockets, originally a Russian design copied and manufactured primarily by the Iranians, has been smuggled into Gaza via the Sinai Peninsula and launched against the Israelis as early as 2006. A more technical manufacturing process, a larger size, and more sophisticated components yield greater range, accuracy and lethality.  However, the supply is limited due to dependence upon external procurement and illicit logistical methods rather than internal production.  This series, although larger than the Qassam series, is still capable of being employed by small teams of 3-4 operatives equipped with little more than a pickup truck and an improvised launching apparatus.  The most advanced models of the Grad series expanded the range capabilities of HAMAS’ rocket attacks to 40km with a payload capacity of 21kg slightly exceeding the Qassam series.

The most recent exchange of rocket fire between Gaza and Israel in November of this year witnessed HAMAS’ first employment of its most advanced series of rockets to date:  The Iranian designed Fadjr series.  The Iranians have denied supplying HAMAS with completed Fadjr series rockets but they have admitted to transferring the technology required for production of the series to the Palestinians.  The Fadjr series’ relatively advanced manufacturing process has prompted doubt into HAMAS’ ability to produce the series domestically leading many to point again to smuggling as the source.  With the fall of the Mubarak regime and resultant decrease in efforts by Egypt to police illicit arms smuggling across the Sinai Peninsula, HAMAS may have found a window of opportunity large enough to fit the 20 foot, 900 pound Fadjr-5 rocket whose size alone creates complicating logistical concerns for smugglers.  Either way, the employment of the Fadjr series nearly doubles the radius of the target fan emanating from Gaza to a distance of 75km.  However, the tactical use of this series is limited due to availability and required launch support.  As compared to the Qassam series, the Fadjr series rocket will require much more advanced production.  As compared to the Grad series, the Fadjr series rocket presents a more complex logistical support structure in order to deliver the series from external sources.  Both means will be easier to detect and target by Israeli intelligence and will greatly limit the supply of the series in Gaza.  Furthermore, the launching of the Fadjr series requires substantial construction of a fixed site platform. This exposes the successful employment of the Fadjr series to a host of vulnerabilities related to planning considerations and logistical liabilities which will prevent HAMAS from utilizing the Fadjr series on the same scale as the Qassam or Grad series rockets.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Bureaucracy of National Security

This past Friday, ex-CIA chief David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill regarding the September 11th attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Petraeus testified that it appeared the attacks were the works of militants linked to al-Qaeda. Several people were critical of Petraeus' testimony, including Rep. Peter King, R-NY. King posited that the testimony was different than what Petraeus reported to lawmakers on September 14th. "He (Petraeus) stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there was significant terrorist involvement, and that is not my recollection of what he told us on September 14th." (CNN)

The government's response to the attacks and how it handled the public relations aspect of the attacks has constantly been under fire for the past two months. Yet, it is also another clear example of the bureaucratic problems lawmakers and government leaders face on a daily basis. Graham Allison, in his famous Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis analysis, discussed the Organizational Process Model and how different groups within the government have different goals. Just like the Army War College this past weekend, every player in the political game has confidential rules it must adhere to and has particular red lines that cannot be crossed no matter what. Rather than negotiate a solution, leaders often times waste valuable time trying to negotiate these red lines.

From this week's class readings, we saw just how expansive the organizational structure of national security institutions really is. This leads one to ponder, "If there did not exist such massive amounts of separate entities, each with their own protocol and special instructions to follow, would the government be able to respond to crisis in a quicker, more efficient way?"

Granted, part of the reason there seems to have been a delayed reaction from the White House during the Benghazi attacks was that there were conflicting reports coming out of Libya. Not to mention the other reports the WH was receiving from Egypt and other predominately Muslim states where more anti-American protests were occurring. Yet the high levels of overlapping that exists in different bodies that we read about is prominent in this case. There were both domestic and international interests, with the State Department and Defense Department each trying to stick to their protocol which at times, conflicted.

Washington could definitely stand to benefit from some type of reorganization. While this will probably never happen, the synchronization of goals for various groups that deal with national security could prevent the U.S. from finding itself in another Benghazi-like situation. Yet, realistically, how many of us think this will actually take place? I'm willing to bet none of us....

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is Turkey Facing Credibility Problems?

After a complete 180 on Syria’s support of al-Assad, the constant stream of refugees into Turkey, and little more than vicious rhetoric in response to Syria’s “accidental” civil war spillover onto Turkish soil, it seems that Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan could be facing some serious credibility problems.

On the homefront, domestic unrest over the vast number of refugees entering Turkey, as well as the divided support for al-Assad and the rebels, is putting Turkey’s “Zero-Problems” foreign policy on the back burner. Estimates show that around 800,000 refugees will be in need of assistance in Turkey by the end of the year. The Turkish government is faced with the difficult task of keeping the refugees in camps, or finding other provinces within the country to move them. Meanwhile, Turkish civilians are divided on whether the refugees have a right to be there, particularly in light of the fact that the economy in the border region is in ruins. Rebels from surrounding countries are passing through Turkey daily in order to join the rebel forces, which is alarming to civilians that militants are passing through their country.

Furthermore, ethnic divide in Turkey over support of al-Assad and the rebels is adding to the civil unrest, as the Turkish government seems to be on both sides of the fence. A year and a half ago, the Syrian government had the full support of the Turkish government. When Turkey turned its support to the rebels and called for al-Assad to step down, Turkey’s al-Assad supporters took the streets in protest. Now it seems that Erdogan is taking no side at all – even Turkey’s – by continuing to oppose al-Assad yet taking no retaliatory response to the military activity that spills over from Syria.

In June, the Syrians shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet, which resulted in little more than rhetoric in response from Turkey. The shelling that spilled over multiple times also generated no response. Although the Turkish government has committed to beefing up its security forces along the border, it begs the question of whether Turkey is truly ready to take action.

Given that Turkey has one of the most powerful militaries in the region, plus a strong economy, it has the strength to show the world and its own citizens that Turkey is not to be trifled with. However, Turkey’s foreign policy of “Zero Problems” with its neighbors has been the staple of its rhetoric for a decade. It seems that Turkey is faced with credibility issues on both sides. Following through on military action would erode it’s commitment to zero problems. But a continued lack of military response could not only cause credibility problems with the world, it could cause a problem with its citizens. It seems that Erdogan is in a tough spot.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Not Just a Private Affair

America Can’t Afford to Keep Cheating Itself of Great Leaders

In recent weeks no fewer than three high ranking officials, notable worldwide, have been forced to resign due to extramarital affairs. In America this included General David Petraeus who stepped down as Director of the CIA when it was revealed he had had an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Surely there is nothing laudable in marital infidelity, but when it comes to the business of national security, what matters above all else is the ability to get the job done. Based on that criterion, was getting rid of Petraeus the right thing to do?

General Petraeus has been praised constantly as one of the best military leaders of our time. There were high hopes that his tenure would result in greater unity, efficiency, and effectiveness in the chaotic and often dysfunctional world of the CIA. Whether or not that proved to be the case or would have proved to be the case is a subject for debate, but what seems clear is that Petraeus’s departure does not seem to have been due to particularly poor leadership.

Why then, should he have been led to resign over a fundamentally private matter? Many might argue that the decision to engage in an extramarital affair displays tendencies towards poor judgment. Others may suggest that such activities belie a lack of the sort of moral grounding they perceive as necessary to govern a country. Still others would be inclined to wonder why state secrets should be given to anyone who can’t even keep a petty affair secret.

None of these arguments hold water; one need only to look at relatively recent history to see affirm that individuals with deeply tumultuous, even chaotic private lives can be extraordinary leaders. The fact of the matter is that unless an affair directly undermines an individual’s ability to lead, it is not sufficient reason to force him out of office. This is a lesson well known to other populations which Americans would do well to learn, too. It could one day be crucial to our national security.

Those who say that Petraeus clearly shows tendencies towards poor judgment based on his affair find themselves contradicted by nearly every great leader in history. John F. Kennedy was no loyal husband, but successfully guided the nation through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not only was this one of the most delicate international situations in history, it was also the most dangerous. Despite his status as a repeat philanderer, he arguably saved modern civilization from potential disaster.

Franklin Roosevelt was perhaps the only leader who could have successfully engineered America’s roles in World War II, and he certainly fooled around on poor Eleanor. J. Edgar Hoover, the man who pioneered the FBI, probably engaged in marital infidelity. Was Bill Clinton unsuited to manage major issues of national security like the stabilization of Russia and the Mexican Peso Crisis because he had a particular way of relaxing in the Oval Office? And nearly all of the Founding Fathers, our most celebrated presidents, committed multiple acts of infidelity.

This leads into the role of moral qualifications to lead elements of the nation’s security apparatus. The Declaration of Independence, one of the central moral documents upon which America’s military and diplomatic conduct in the world is founded, was written by a man who fathered an entire family with one of his slaves. Surely that doesn’t change the value of the Declaration of Independence.

And what of the idea that if Petraeus wasn’t able to keep his own petty affair a secret, then he surely can’t be trusted with the security of the nation? Rubbish. The idea has been bandied about that perhaps the secret may have been leaked for political reasons from inside the CIA. It’s always dangerous for leadership anywhere in government to ruffle the feathers of the CIA entrenched bureaucracy. If an internal leak proves to be the case, it probably just means Petraeus was doing something right.

The only thing that made this leader in the fight to secure America from outside threats unable to perform his duties was not his extramarital affair. It was the guaranteed reaction from the public once they found out. Petraeus knew the news would break and that he would lose his authority to lead with the public, regardless of whether or not he was still capable. Though the private failing is certainly on the part of the Petraeus, the public failing isn’t. It’s on the part of an over-moralizing American electorate.

In France, Presidents are almost expected to philander. The French simply don’t care if he does so long as it doesn’t affect the job he does. Many a sociologist will suggest that this comes from centuries of existential threat from Spain, the United Kingdom, and then Germany. The moral foibles of a leader in his (or her) private life simply didn’t matter in the face of such danger. America must learn this lesson; sacrificing a great leader to the cause of moral outrage in a 24-hour media cycle is insane.

This country has an unusually powerful fixation on marital infidelity. As a country, there is a tendency to expect leaders not only to be good at their jobs, but also to stand as examples of moral rectitude. The problem is that those two expectations often overlap. What makes a great politician very rarely makes a good man; great leaders need to be confident to the point of arrogance and willing to take risks.
By punishing their leaders for being human, America cuts off its brain to spite its security. There is a place for morality on the world stage; America should conduct itself with the greatest moral clarity possible. However, in an increasingly competitive and insecure international system, removing highly skilled national security leaders from their post for petty reasons attached to private iniquities is a luxury which no country, not even the United States, can afford.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Defense Spending on 5th Generation Fighter Programs in the Next 4 Years

                One of the few cogently defined issues separating the Presidential candidates in the 2012 election is national defense, specifically the defense budget.  Governor Romney’s plan envisions a defense budget of around 4% of GDP, while President Obama would like to see funding reduced as the U.S. withdraws from the war in Afghanistan and the military transitions to peacetime operations.  Although the exact difference between the two plans is difficult to ascertain, most authorities are in consensus that the gap would be measured in hundreds of billions of dollars.  According to, some of the key programs that would be funded by the additional outlays include the Army’s Stryker armored vehicles, the Navy’s Aegis destroyer and Virginia class submarine, and the Air Force’s Reaper drones and its newest 5th generation fighter jet the F-35.

                Currently the F-35 is still in development with 60 of the fighters built and currently employed for training applications, but the F-35 isn’t the only 5th generation fighter jet in the U.S. arsenal.  The F-22 employed by the Air Force is the most advanced operational fighter jet in the world and the fleet of over 180 of these fighters has been in service in the American military since 2005.  The F-22 simply outclasses the competition due to its hegemony over the skies as the only 5th generation fighter jet in the world currently employed.  Thanks to a federal law banning its export, the United States has the only military with this class of fighter, but that monopoly won’t last forever.

                Russia and China are developing their own 5th generation fighters; however, they are estimated to be a long way from becoming fully operational, let alone achieving numerical parity with the U.S. Fleet.  The Russian PAK FA/T-50 fighter is scheduled for introduction in 2015/2016 and currently their developmental fleet is estimated at 5 aircraft.  Less information is available about the Chinese J-series fighter which is further behind in its development, but it is expected to be introduced in 2018.  The global economic conditions will likely impact both competing development programs resulting in delays, at a minimum.  The considerable cost of these programs and the unit cost of production of these fighters will seriously impede either nation from matching American supremacy of 5th generation fighters for many more years beyond their anticipated introduction dates. 

Assuming that the existing U.S. arsenal does not expand by a single fighter, how long would it take for the Chinese or the Russians to match the American fleet of F-22’s?  The per-unit cost of the Russian PAK FA/T-50 is estimated at around $50 million.  Aggregate Russian spending on national defense is much more difficult to project, however, estimates from give a ballpark figure of around $50 billion annually. Based on these figures, the Russian Government would have to devote 20% of its annual defense budget in order to produce a fleet of 200 aircraft, an absurd reallocation of funding that would that impose major constraints upon the rates of production.  The outlook for the Chinese J series fighter is even less threatening with analysis from concluding that “The J-31 might achieve an initial operational capability in the 2025 timeframe.”

                Given the dire fiscal outlook of the federal budget and uncertain threats from competing national efforts in developing 5th generation fighters, the F-35 program along with defense spending in general will be difficult for Americans to stomach should Romney be elected and will likely be an easy target for cuts if President Obama is reelected.        

Monday, November 05, 2012

Politicization and Misalignment of Chinese Defense Priorities

China's break-neck increases in military expenditure, generally estimated at around a 10% budget increase per year for the past two decades, have established the People's Liberation Army as one of the best funded military forces on Earth, at least in aggregate terms. Interestingly the People's Liberation Army-Navy has been the very public beneficiary of much of this largess with a substantial improvement in both the size and capability of the PLAN. As a result an increasing number of analysts and pundits find the Chinese military budget threatening. Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, both insightful figures in the study of the Chinese military, have begun to sound warnings about Chinese defense industries, particularly in the shipbuilding sector. Although these warnings come with the a number of reasonable caveats, a variety of the strengths discussed by Collins and Erickson will likely prove to be weaknesses rather than strengths. More importantly the increasing factionalization of the Chinese political system may threaten even a well-funded PLAN with incoherent strategies and poorly chosen equipment. 

The advantages of increasing technical savvy in design and construction techniques, particular the move to modular assembly practices, present little downside to Chinese military aspirations, whatever they may be; cheap, reliable and standardized equipment is useful for just about everyone. Roughly the same can be said from China's cost advantage in manufacturing warships and the possibility of selling relatively cheap systems to others. Sharing resources across differing shipyards, however, may prove a different story. One of the advantages of producing goods in non-monopoly circumstances, after all, is the insulation of markets as a whole from the foibles of a few producers; close cooperation between nominally independent organizations can spread faulty assumptions and engender group-think at least as easily as it spreads innovative ideas or drives techniques to an efficient standard.

More importantly, the ability of the Chinese shipyards to manufacture aircraft carriers may prove to be a serious strategic problem for the PLAN. Aircraft carriers, particularly of the kind that the PLAN could realistically field in the next decade, would have little use against the US or any of the major East Asian maritime states but could lead those states to increase balancing behavior aimed at China (as Collins and Erickson note). This also cuts against the ability of the Chinese to export their maritime military hardware; Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia seem unlikely to tie themselves to a rising and possibly hostile maritime hegemon by buying that hegemon's warships. As a result a great deal of China's maritime procurement strategy (aircraft carriers, large surface combatants, continued development of nuclear attack submarines) appears less focused on extant Chinese security concerns and more with prestige-building and producing ships that make the major ship-yards look good to the Chinese public.

A move towards a prestige-oriented military fits with the rumblings of elite political turmoil in the People's Republic. With a record number of well-to-do Chinese citizens sending their money and even their kids abroad, and large numbers of Chinese professionals immigrating for ultimately political reasons, the continued economic expansion has become more precarious than in the past. As large numbers of skilled and educated workers head for abroad the technical capacity of Chinese defense industries will become difficult to maintain much less expand. Most importantly the structure of elite politics in China, and particularly the corruption and cronyism in vital projects such as the high-speed rail network, raise concerns about aligning the Chinese state's ends and means.