Thursday, December 13, 2012

Assad's waning power

Things are not looking good for Bashar al-Assad.

He has consistently lost control of his country, piece by piece. He has pulled his forces back in an effort to concentrate defenses of Damascus and other key cities. This tightening up also makes it easier to feed and provide fuel for the forces that stay loyal to him. While tactically this makes sense—warm and well-fed soldiers do tend to feel better about continuing the fight—it will most likely not work out for him in the long run. Estimations have Assad running out of money completely by April at the latest. The U.S. recently recognized some of the Syrian rebel forces, and now Russia has admitted that a collapse of Assad's regime is likely. A bleak outlook indeed for Mr. Assad.

While this is important progress for the country, they are certainly not out of the woods yet. Assad has proclaimed that he will “live and die in Syria,” and has given no indication of giving up the fight any time soon. Quite the opposite, in fact. There have been recent (not completely verified) reports about Assad’s forces firing Soviet-era Scud ballistic missiles against the rebel forces. This is a marked escalation in the level of violence Assad has been willing to inflict upon his opponents.

While reports that these Scud missiles are still being verified, the international community does believe that the Syrian government has made preparations for the deployment of chemical weapons. The U.S. and other Western nations have warned Assad not to deploy these weapons, and he has made all the proper assurances that he won’t. However, why mobilize them if he has no intention of allowing their use?

Assad is getting more and more desperate daily. It is not unthinkable that he would deploy these weapons if he felt he had no other choice, especially if the reports of Scud missile attacks are true. It is a well-known phenomenon that animals are at their most dangerous when cornered and people are no different. If Assad isn’t feeling cornered yet, it is certainly only a matter of time. 

There have been calls for the U.S. to step up its intervention in this conflict in the hopes of averting any more escalation in violence. More than 40,000 civilians have already been killed and countless more have been displaced during this nearly two-year conflict. Is it now time for the U.S. to intervene directly or should we continue to let this play out?

Why Mourn Monti?

New Leadership is in Italy's best interests, and America's

The Atlantic has seemed suspiciously quiet lately. Greek disaster was (temporarily) averted, while issues closer to home have grabbed our attention as we brace for Thelma (Barack Obama) and Louise (John Boehner) to drive their car (the United States of America) over a cliff (of the fiscal variety) rather than get in trouble with the cops (ideological crazies on both sides.) But the eerie transatlantic quiet is no reason to stop worrying about the European Union. It just means we’re looking for trouble in the wrong places. Sure Ireland is still the bail-out poster child, Portugal is still OK(ish), Greece still hasn’t imploded, and Spain is still making progress. Yet Italy’s election next year may be a make-or-break event for Europe, the ripples of which will not fail to reach American shores. In spite of urgent chatter in leadership circles supporting a new mandate for technocrat Mario Monti, America should hope for center-left candidate Pier Bersani.
                Even by Italian standards, the approaching election is a complex one. Mario Monti, the technocratic Prime Minister who has overseen a unity government since November last year is due to resign early after passage of the 2013 budget. Though Monti has moved to squelch speculation that he may run to renew his mandate, he may yet return to the Chigi. Meanwhile, disgraced former PM Silvio Berlusconi, the ever-present Master of Ceremonies of the Kit Kat Klub of Italian politics, resumed leadership of his People of Liberty Party (PDL), adding to a sense of disarray on the right. Finally, the newly confident and increasingly capable left recently chose center-left Democratic Party (PD) leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, as its candidate amid unexpectedly energetic and enthusiastic turnout.
It has been trendy to support Mario Monti, and, though unlikely, he may renew his mandate. He has stood up well after instituting unpopular reforms, and even under recent withering attacks by Berlusconi’s PDL.  Should the election prove divisive and uncertain, or if the policies of either party appear totally unpalatable to markets, Monti’s supporters may be able to engineer public demand for a renewed mandate.
Despite instituting unpopular reforms and austerity measures, Monti’s government is well-liked. This is mainly due to technocracy; Italians have often looked to technocratic unity governments in a crisis. Monti is extraordinarily well respected in Europe as well, and is credited by Italians and eurocrats alike for instituting one of the more balanced reform/austerity packages, applying a portion of increased tax revenues to stimulative infrastructure investment.

It is supposed that only a technocratic is capable of introducing such reforms in the wildly unpredictable arena of Italian politics. But this is not the case. Much like European markets, European and American leadership are highly risk-averse preferring what they know to what they do not. By that logic, America should desire a Berlusconi victory. After all, he has been intensely pro-America, would avoid military cuts, and may even be able to somewhat ease market fears as a familiar face with familiar small-government rhetoric.
Yet no one wants Berlusconi to return, least of all America. The United States’ first priority is long-term peace and stability on the continent, which requires a strong and democratic Italy. In addition, America’s long-term preferences also include an Italy which views America favorably, is militarily capable, and is a willing military partner. In the short term, American recovery demands stability and growth in Europe. In the medium term, America seeks a reformed Italy with prospects for reasonable growth and that remains loyal to the United States. No potential Prime Minister offers the full package.
Bersani comes closest to fitting the bill. True, his is a former Communist, and represented a the Democrats of the Left, a socialist outfit, in the European Parliament as recently as 2006. That may make markets nervous. But Bersani, a competent former Minister of Economic Development known for market and anti-corruption reforms, is the only credible candidate to reaffirm Italian democratic institutions.
In spite of his Communist past, Bersani conducted  a range of liberalizing reforms as a minister in the Prodi government, and has remained a staunch supporter of the Monti administration. He would likely continue along the path laid out by Monti, lightening heavy regulatory loads and slimming the bloated state. Vague suggestions that investment, especially R&D, should play a greater role might mean a small stimulus sufficient to diminish worries about severe recession without undermining fragile faith in the Italian debt situation.
Most importantly, Bersani would continue these reforms with a democratic, not technocratic, mandate. Another Monti administration would fail to break the perceived tendency in Italian politics to develop crises, institute technocracy, and then return to the dysfunctional system that created the problem. Berlsuconi’s election would only confirm perceptions of Italian politics as theatre of the absurd. Meanwhile, Bersani’s history of corruption-fighting and reformism may make him the Prime Minister to prove that it doesn’t take a technocratic government to create strong policy. Given broad support from center-right to far left, Bersani may have the democratic legitimacy necessary to buck his trade union base. Indeed, coming on the heels of Monti’s tenure, widespread support for centrist reform, and a scattered opposition may finally allow an intellectual center-left PM time to execute a full range of reforms.
Pier Bersani is the best option for both Italy and the United States. Bersani is not the great cheerleader for America that Berlusconi was, but then neither is Monti. And, like Monti, Bersani is also likely to cut military spending against America’s preferences. However, the very low likelihood that America would seek Italian aid in the near future means that a temporary period of marginally anti-American government is tolerable in pursuit of long-term ends.
That is the case today. America needs a stable Europe, and Europe needs a strong Italy. So long as he doesn’t give in to his party’s statist tendencies, Bersani can reassure markets, blunt the effects of recession and boost medium- and long-term growth prospects with targeted investment, reduce chances of EU contagion, and relegitimize Italian democracy. These are all American priorities. It’s a big bill, but Bersani is the only candidate with a chance of achieving it.

Can Morsi pull Egypt together?

Though he has recently rescinded two controversial decrees, Mohamed Morsi’s decision-making style has many Egyptians worried.

The more troubling of these two decrees was a constitutional declaration (made November 22) that essentially gave Morsi supreme power over the country and barred the courts from countering any of decisions. Understandably, the country that had just booted out their previous leader for his dictatorial ways balked at this new development. Widespread public protests and the resignation of eight of Morsi’s advisors led the president to nix that edict last week. 

“Guys, guys. Easy. I said I only wanted to have this power temporarily. I don’t know what everyone was getting so twitchy about, but I’ll give it back now. Gosh.”

Many of Morsi’s former advisors are speaking out about their president’s decision-making process.  While they describe him as open-minded and respectful of all viewpoints, they claim that his final decisions do not reflect their counsel at all. In fact, these former advisors say that they were often surprised by the decisions that the president made. This is particularly irksome to them, and the greater Egyptian population, as Morsi had said that improving the transparency of governmental decision-making was a priority for him.

At the start of his term, it seemed that he was committed to changing how decisions were made during the previous term. In an effort to distinguish himself from Mubarak, he appointed a large presidential team.  He gathered individuals with a wide range of expertise and backgrounds in order to ensure diversity of opinion.

Sadly, this new era of openness seems to have ended. The president may listen attentively to all of his advisors, but it has become clear that real decisions are being made elsewhere. Analysts offer the explanation that perhaps Morsi picked too diverse of panel of advisors. Some suggest that he may be seeking a more streamlined viewpoint (that of the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically) in order to get decisions finalized faster. 

Others argue that Morsi just needs time to adjust to his new role. Admittedly, he is the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history and has only been in office for five months. Our own presidents struggle to take over power in that time and they aren’t trying to rewrite a constitution at the same time. So, the question now is, as global advocates of democracy, can the U.S. do anything to help ensure this elected leader’s success?

Active Camouflage??? I'm definitely reenlisting!!!

A scene depicting Active Camouflage from the movie Predator 
When it comes to camouflage technology it doesn’t get much better than invisibility.  While most people would dismiss this statement as obvious but technologically impossible, a man named Guy Cramer and his company HyperStealth biotechnology have developed a technology you have to see to believe, which is pretty difficult considering it makes the user nearly invisible.  Cramer, a Canadian national, has been developing camouflage technologies for militaries all over the world for more than a decade.  In 2011, HyperStealth announced a breakthrough in camouflage capability with its Quantum Camouflage material.  Based on photo-optic principles associated with fiber optic technologies, Quantum Camouflage bends ambient light around the user rendering the operator nearly invisible by projecting an image of the users’ background.  Cramer claims this material is lightweight and doesn’t require any sort of electrical power source or special training to effectively operate. 

A demonstration of HyperStealth's Quantum Camouflage technology
Commonly portrayed in popular media as cut-throat in its aggressive efforts to procure applicable cutting-edge technologies, the U.S. Government has proved far less cunning in Mr. Cramer’s experience.  Despite a working relationship with the U.S. military on existing projects and a well established reputation for developing a number of innovative technologies associated specifically with advancing camouflage technology, Cramer claims to have been met with skepticism and a slow bureaucratic process of paper-work and red tape.  Fortunately his priority is not to sell his technology to the highest bidder; rather he has expressed every intention of pursuing a development contract with Canada, the U.S., and the U.K, even if it isn’t the easiest path to choose. 

The situation facing Mr. Cramer should raise some eyebrows about how our government does business.  How many independent innovators have gone to our strategic defense competitors rather than deal with a slow, inefficient process for developing their technologies domestically?  The benefits of Mr. Cramer’s Quantum technology are glaringly obvious even to the layperson and yet he has had to embark on an international publicity campaign to get the attention of the Pentagon.  After a private demonstration with a select group of senior officials from the military Mr. Cramer then faced the painfully slow bureaucratic process of authorizations and agreements between the United States and Canada to gain a military development contract for this technology.  In the meantime, we can only imagine how many foreign governments have now developed a keen interest in Quantum Camouflage not through daring espionage efforts but after seeing this technology displayed on CNN.  If there is anything that should be classified, a light-weight, inexpensive, battery-free material that enables invisibility should be branded top-secret and guarded against theft by foreign interests.

CNN Interview with Guy Cramer and a demonstration of Quantum Camouflage

Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation Homepage

Cyber Warfare Cont’d

The last Israel-Hamas war was accompanied by intense online attacks waged by both sides. It started when the actual warfare was going on and became almost non-stop after the ceasefire was announced. Anonymous hackers from both sides used the distributional denial of service (DDOS) attacks to overload the traffic connection to the opponents’ website. The types of DDOS used this time are known as the Layer 7 attacks. They have relatively smaller volume and utilize much less bandwidth, and therefore are even harder to defend against for traditional DDOS scrubbing services. Previously similar attacks have been used for political purposes in Russia-Georgia War and Russia-Estonia crisis. Cyberwar is not new to Hamas-Israeli wars either; there have been a variety of internet attacks in 2008-2009 as well. But the last war still showed several interesting tendencies:
Israeli website defaced by
Pakistani hackers
  • Unlike the previous instances, this time cyber offensives were not launched by only one side of the conflict. Websites of both sides came under regular attacks. For instance, Palestinian group Anonymous started to DDOS Israeli websites few days before the ceasefire and soon came under attack itself. A private U.S. company Cloudflare, which provides website protection services to organizations on both sides of the conflict, found itself in a unique situation observing “crossfire” between the supporters of two sides. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote about this in his blog post.
  • Such attacks are not causing physical or any major financial harm to anybody. The maximum DDOS attacks can achieve is paralyzing opponents’ information websites, deterring legitimate visitors from accessing the information. In some cases hackers enjoy posting humiliating photos or posts on the front pages of their victims. So, why making such a big deal out of this? Information campaigns and the ability to justify country’s military actions have been an important part of the warfare from ancient times. Rules always tried to justify their conquests and winners always enjoyed the monopoly over writing the history. In the Internet era, however, losers also get to say and push their version of history. More than that, it is becoming difficult to identify winners and losers. Both Israel and Hamas claim the victory in the last confrontation, boasting their tactical and other successes through social media and other services. After Russia-Georgia ceasefire in 2008, Georgian government also launched an expensive information campaign assuring primarily Georgian society, but also international community, that Georgia has won the war. In these situations attacks on major information services have increasingly symbolic importance.  
  • It was interesting to see that confrontation in the internet space intensified and lasted for days after the ceasefire. In the future this may raise the issue of how ceasefire agreements can and should regulate cyber confrontations as well. Otherwise sides may stop bombing each other’s territory by missiles, but inflict other types of damage in cyberspace. With the technological development this damage can be much more significant than just bringing down the information or governmental websites. However, until attacks are carried out by anonymous individuals and groups unrelated to any official structures, regulating this field will remain very challenging.
  • And finally, to continue on the same note, last Israeli-Gaza cyber conflict again stressed rapidly increasing role of individuals and private companies. Even though the attacks targeted governmental and other official websites, actual “fighting” was happening between individual or groups of unidentified hackers and a private company, that ironically provides protection to both, the Israeli Defense Forces website and the Hamas’ al-Qassam paramilitary wing’s webpage.  

Congress, Arms Sales, and the Middle East

U.S.’s decision to join a group of European and Arab countries in recognizing the legitimacy of Syrian opposition has reopened the issue of whether Washington should also lift the arms embargo and provide lethal support to the Syrian opposition. France has been supporting this idea for a while and Qatar is already providing some weapons to the rebels. However, Victoria Nuland, State Department Spokesperson, has reiterated quite a few times that the U.S. is not going to go beyond non-lethal support. Furthermore, State Department continues to isolate radicals among the opposition – jihadist Al-Nusra Front has been added to the blacklist of foreign terror organizations linked to Al-Qaeda and the Treasury has imposed sanctions against their leaders. It is obvious that the State Department is being extra cautious and is trying to learn from the Libyan experience. According to unspecified sources, during the height of Libyan rebellion U.S. has approved a secret arms transfer through Qatar to Libyan rebels, some of which, according to counterterrorism agencies, ended up in the hands of radical groups. These allegations led several retired military and intelligence officials to speculate that there could have been some links between those secretly transferred weapons and the terrorist attack in Benghazi. 

Administration’s prudence definitely deserves laudation. But the question is how lasting and foresighted this vigilance is. It is not yet clear how long will White House resist the temptation of providing arms to the opposition. And even if it will manage to resist till the end, direct arms transfer is not the only way American arms can reach the rebels. Gulf region is saturated by American weapons, as Washington is obviously not as cautious of signing arms deals worth billions of dollars with various Gulf countries.  

Despite the world economic crisis, global arms sales almost doubled last year and U.S.’s share in 2011 increased to almost 80% of the market. Out of $85.3 billion of global annual trade budget, U.S. received $66.3 billion. Russia remains the second biggest arms provider on the global market, but her share has reduced from 24% in 2010 to only 6% in 2011. Most of these arms went to the developing world. The biggest importer of U.S. arms is Saudi Arabia. It purchased almost half of all U.S.’s arms exports in 2011. Other major importers in the region are the UAE, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and of course Israel. Most of the arms sold to these countries are described as defensive, aimed at increasing Gulf countries’ defensive capabilities against Iran. But besides the antimissile batteries and missile defense systems, these countries are also procuring vast numbers of F-15 and F-16 fighters, various ammunitions, missiles, and other conventional weapons, which can easily end up in the hands of all groups of Syrian rebels, even if the U.S. is not intending to support them directly.  And this is only the unclassified part of the sales. Foreign countries can acquire American-produced arms through several schemes – Foreign Military Sales (FMS), Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), leases of equipment, transfer of excess defense articles (EDA), and emergency draw-downs of weaponry. In addition to sales, arms are being transferred as a part of the foreign assistance. Almost 12% of total U.S. foreign aid is spent on military. The largest of military assistance programs are Foreign Military Financing, which has been providing funds to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan for purchasing American weapons and in exchange, maintaining peace with each other, International Military Education and Training program, and Counter-drug Aid. The biggest chunks of the arms sales are channeled through the FMS. It includes all inter-governmental deals and is absolutely transparent if the deal is worth more than $14 million. It is administered by Pentagon. DCS however is quicker, sometimes even cheaper route and goes through less governmental scrutiny than FMS. Most of the information about the types and quantities traded are easily classified as “confidential business information.” 

Senator Richard Lugar has criticized Obama Administration for limiting Congressional engagement in foreign arms trade to the very formal procedures. Previous administrations have engaged Congressional leaders in informal discussions of the terms and conditions of all major deals prior to presenting the final agreement for formal Congressional approval. This practice, according to Sen. Lugar, allowed for much deeper scrutiny of the impact of each deal on U.S.’s foreign policy goals in a given country. One of the consequences of the late, rather unilateral decisions, he argues, has been Government Accountability Office’s findings that there are some inconsistencies between the arms sales to the Gulf States and the U.S. foreign policy goals, as defined by the Pentagon and State Department.  

UCLASS: A Paper Drone?

The UCLASS (or Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike) precursor from Northrop-Grumman, the X-47B, has recently gone to sea aboard USS Truman for testing purposes. The Navy is understandably excited; given the place that drone systems have taken in the US military and in the public mind the lack of sophisticated carrier-based UAVs was becoming aggravating. Moreover many in the US Navy view UAVs like the X-47B as the future of naval aviation, capable of carrying substantial payloads greater distances at lower cost than an F-35 and without the problems associated with sending US pilots into harms way.

Unfortunately I don't quite share the enthusiasm for high-end military UAVs. Operating in de-conflicted airspace like Yemen or Pakistan's Federal Autonomous Tribal Areas presents relatively modest challenges to drone operators, but even modest air defenses make life nasty, brutish and short for American UAVs. Against the high-powered opponents that the X-47B's stealthy airframe suggests it's successors are meant to deal with such defenses will be magnified many fold, and will included electronic warfare capabilities not used against the US in recent conflicts.

Signal loss for drones obviously causes problems, given that they rely on remote operators for essentially all vital instructions while in flight. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can allow for some degree of autonomy; most modern airliners have auto-pilot functions that can land the planes more comfortably than jittery, flesh and bone pilots. Even aside from the legal issues (or Skynet concerns) of killer robots, AIs become much less capable in unstructured situations like, say, a modern battlefield. When the area is littered with a multitude of different targets, threats, "things that you're not allowed to blow up," and stuff that exists in grey zones between those categories AIs tend to run into serious problems, especially in the vital area of rapidly making priorities and performing actions to carry them out. If real-time strategy video games get developed where units can reliably find their way across a map without getting hopeless lost we should get concerned about the onset of truly autonomous battlefield AI. Since such a day is likely to come somewhat after the heat-death of the universe, UCLASS might not be quite the futuristic jewel the Navy hopes for.

A National Security Committee?

Many an internet comment has lamented the inability of the US Congress to effectively constrain the executive branch in the realm of foreign policy. Major reform efforts, like the 1947 National Security Act (NSA) or the 1973 War Powers Resolution occasionally reassert Congressional power in the making of foreign policy, but Presidential focus on foreign affairs and internal divisions in Congress seem to inevitably lead to greater concentrations of authority in executive agencies if not the White House. Indeed some efforts, such as the NSA or the Goldwater-Nichols reforms to the Department of Defense, may have ended up empowering various executive actors (through the executive National Security Council or the military's regional commands) and thereby restricted the ability of Congress to exercise effective oversight and control.

One possible solution would be for Congress to mimic the executive and engage in a more centralized process for controlling the legislative branch's foreign policy agenda. Although bicameralism will often lead to partisan splits over control of Congress, as seen in the current Congress and the next, a committee structure that reduced intra-Congressional veto points and forced a degree of institutional linkage between the various committee leaders may improve Congress's ability to effectively respond to foreign affairs.

One structural move towards a more coherent committee structure would include the convening of a standing National Security Committee (or some similar term) in each chamber, formed chairpersons and ranking members of the standing committees charged with oversight of intelligence agencies, the armed forces and diplomatic efforts. The Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Minority Leaders from each chamber would have at least ex-officio status in their relevant committees, while the leaders from the committees formally overseeing immigration, the Department of Homeland Security and international trade would all make plausible candidates for inclusion; an extra member for the majority party would allow for a modicum of partisan control. The NSCs would have oversight authority over the committees from which their members derived and would have necessary authority to consider legislation or other matters on the behalf of those committees as well. Non-security issues would likely require a distinct set of committees, particularly since economic or social policy can quickly have strong and widely dispersed domestic constituencies that may be lacking in diplomatic or intelligence issues.

What might such a system accomplish? The ability of any single committee chair to block legislation would fall, since widespread support would Congressional leaders to advance the issue through a formal committee process by means of an NSC. Committee members may find themselves somewhat disempowered over their own fiefs but would gather potentially substantial sway over a wide array of issues outside their normal jurisdiction. In all gathering Congress's most powerful voices in security policy into a formal framework for assessing US foreign-security policy should improve both domestic US politics of and the actual conduct of US foreign relations.

An honest space shuttle system?

Recent-ish developments in launch technology have intrigued fans of space operations the world over. News of North Korea's rather unfortunate orbital launch may have cast something of a pall over space news. Nonetheless some of developments,  like Space-X's proposed self-landing rocket system and the news out of the UK regarding single-stage launch systems (ie, space-planes), seem more interesting for the future development of space policy and technology.

Reaction Engines Limited's new piece of techno-wizardry isn't a space-plane, and it isn't even an engine. It is, however, a means of feasibly building such an engine. Essentially ERL has figured out how to reliably cool incoming air (superheated as the plane moves at supersonic speeds) so that a relatively conventional jet-engine can compress and burn that air without promptly melting. As a result an winged aerospace vehicle could take off from a runway and use on-board fuel and atmospheric oxygen to accelerate up to a substantial fraction of orbital velocity while ascending to the edge of space. At extreme altitude on-board oxygen would become necessary, but the huge weight savings and other advantages would allow a plane-like vehicle to take off, get to orbit and return to Earth without the disposable rockets that regularly broke the bank for the Space Shuttle.

The technical aspects, or at least the ones made public, are interesting enough on their own merits. Potential implications of the "Sabre" technology, however are more likely to interest the readers and writers of this blog.

At present launch to orbit from the Earth's surface faces a fundamental problem, namely high launch costs imposed by having to build launch vehicles for every single satellite sent into space. By analogy imagine the costs of having to manufacture a new car every time you want to go to a store; manufacturing or growing your own stuff, however badly or inefficiently, would start to seem reasonable pretty quickly. Allowing for re-use of launch systems (explained here by Elon Musk) hugely cuts down on launch costs since the fuel in question is actually only a small part of the total cost.

What do lowered launch costs mean from a security standpoint? First, the number of large-scale players in space operations can be expected to increase enormously. If handled well this could hugely benefit the US; if everyone has a lot to lose in space the odds for international controls on orbital and anti-satellite weapons become more reasonable. Even if space become an actual combat environment cheaper launch vehicles would help lower the costs of both replacing damaged or destroyed satellites and clearing up orbital debris at somewhat reasonable prices.

Further in the future the orbital environment will change dramatically. More dispersed satellite systems like those envisioned in DARPA's System F6 could become commonplace, maintained and replaced by permanent orbital repair and refueling satellites. Large satellites, with components fabricated on Earth but assembled in space could also come about, hugely increasing the resolution of imagery satellites and the bandwidth of space-based communications. Although weapons in orbit may remain unfeasible, if only because of the time and cost of reliably bringing a satellite from orbit to the Earth's surface, Sabre-technology could substantially ease the development of high-speed cruise missiles like the US Air Force's ill-fated WaveRider program, while potential efficiency gains in other high-performance jet engines could lead to relatively ubiquitous commercial uses in the years ahead.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

After Preponderance:

Can the Anglosphere Turn Shared History into a Shared Future?

As competition for world influence grows and America’s economic and military heft are diluted by the progress of others, American hegemonic preponderance becomes unsustainable. The risks of imperial overstretch increase with every passing year. Earlier this semester, I proposed a new American strategy of indirect preponderance incorporating medium-sized powers in a “preponderant core” to preserve the basic benefits of US dominance. Today, I propose another option: formalizing the “anglosphere” into an Anglo Union.
The “preponderant core” created a durable bloc of ideologically, politically, and economically similar American allies through targeted integration. However, the plan is expensive and risky, demanding hard budget decisions and significant changes to the American international order. In lieu of this, America may pursue a narrower policy of indirect preponderance through an “Anglo-Union” based on today’s Anglosphere, replacing breadth of membership with deeper integration. Costs would be high, but likelihood of total failure would be tiny.
What is the Anglosphere?
First, it bears note that “Anglosphere” has nothing to do with intolerant fringe ideologies treating “anglo” as an ethnicity or race. As France has “francophonie,” England has an Anglosphere. I attempt to apply these shared cultural and political heritages to improving the security environment.
Unlike francophonie, the Anglosphere has never been clearly defined. In its loosest form, the Anglosphere is a group states with English as an official language and some shared cultural heritage. The most common definition is more restrictive. Historian Andrew Roberts defines the anglosphere as a group of developed democracies which meet the above criteria and also have a strong history of military alliance: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Though it is important to avoid reductionist tendencies lumping distinct cultures together, these countries certainly enjoy an extremely high degree of mutual cultural intelligibility and trust that is rare among large, geographically diverse populations.
Why an AU?
The Anglosphere is already fundamentally political, entailing alliance and cooperation. It therefore represents an unprecedented opportunity to organize a smooth systemic power shift not unlike the shift from British to American dominance. Though America’s relative power may be declining along with other component members’, together they form a formidable entity of nearly half a billion people which would be difficult to dethrone.
At $21 trillion, the AU economy would account for a third of global output, four of the ten most traded (and reserved) currencies, 172 Fortune 500 companies, 18 of the fifty biggest banks by assets, nearly half of world R&D spending, and nine of the Global Cities Index top 25.
Its military would combine America’s gargantuan force with three more of the top fifteen military spenders for total spending of over $805 billion -- 52% of global military expenditures according to SIPRI.
Politically and culturally, all the AU’s members “punch above their weight.” The AU would possess two permanent seats at the UN Security Council and a quarter of votes at the IMF. AU countries all have specialized influence in dozens of international organizations. Australia, for instance, often exercises more influence over developing agricultural states in the WTO than America. And from Peter Jackson to the BBC they all have significant cultural influence.
What would it look like?
The Anglo Union builds on existing institutions and agreements to create a coherent quasi-confederation using the EU as a template. It would be neither as unified nor as ambitious as the EU, but would benefit from the European experience as it focuses on military, economic, and institutional integration.
Deeper military integration would allow individual states to modestly shrink their generalist militaries while specializing to become functional parts of the larger whole. Over time, bilateral and multilateral military arrangements would be replaced by a single overarching arrangement.
Economic integration will accelerate. The few sets of countries that do not already have them will negotiate FTAs. Existing free trade agreements (FTAs) will be enhanced with an eye towards regulatory standardization. Eventually an AU Free Trade Area (AUFTA) will replace the network of bilateral arrangements.
Three issues will be particularly thorny: agriculture, labor mobility, and Britain’s place in the EU. With price controls, agricultural liberalization may not be too nettlesome given the unique context. Liberalization of labor mobility is implausible, but mobility could be boosted by visa and residency reforms like those in Australia. Finally, until recent uncertainty on Britain and the EU settles, all bets are off.
Next, unlike the Preponderant Core, an Anglo Union strategy requires a dedicated institutional framework as well. To make up for its smaller size the AU must be more integrated, necessitating supranational organization on monetary coordination, fiscal coordination and limited fiscal union, and partial regulatory collectivization.
Monetary union is politically impossible; the dollar is sacred. Absent currency union, a loose version of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism is preferable. This, with a board of central bankers to coordinate monetary policy, will strip out the worst effects of currency market fluctuations and divergent monetary policy.
The EU is also an excellent model for limited fiscal coordination and union. Given limited exchange rate coordination, the Eurozone’s broad regulations on debt and deficits will serve the AU well. As in the EU, the AU budget should reach around 1% of GDP, but revenues should come from dedicated streams. These will fund AU bureaucracy, infrastructure, R&D, and emergency assistance to members.
Lastly, America’s overwhelming power requires a governing regulatory institution modeled after the European Commission: a small group of technocrats, each appointed by one country but (theoretically) obliged to act in the interest of the AU as a whole. Technocracy and equal representation grant legitimacy while small group dynamics allows the US to apply pressure behind the scenes.
In conclusion...
The Anglo Union is an ambitious project. In some respects it is even more so than the preponderant core. However, the risks are lower and potential benefits higher. It does not destroy the existing system, but bears long-term potential as a guarantor of peace, stability and Western democratic interests. Shared heritage, language, economic systems, and political values represent an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation and integration. However, the centrifugal force of a rising China weakens America’s attractive power.  The opportunity is unique, it is vanishing, and it should not be wasted.

Something to ponder

In addition to news about North Korea’s successful rocket launch, reports have recently emerged signaling that experts from the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) have been permanently stationed in North Korea, most likely near the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (a.k.a. Tongchang-ri, a.k.a. where the rocket was launched).

Experts believe that the Unha-3 is likely the product of a joint project between the two countries, noting the similarities in designs between this rocket and Iran’s Safir. The U.S. Intelligence Community also believes that the engines used in the Safir were the product of North Korean technology.

Those in charge of ensuring UN Security Council’s resolutions in both countries point out that they continue to exchange missile technology. Similar to naughty schoolchildren passing notes in the back of the classroom, Iran and North Korea have been using commercial airlines to transport missile components.

This sort of collusion is old news. Officially, collaboration agreements listed involve sustainable development, education, agriculture and the environment. However, Iranian and North Korean cooperation in other fields dates back to the Iran-Iraq war. During this time Iran funded the Hwasong missile series in exchange for getting to observe flight tests and 100 units of the completed missiles (Shahab-1).  In the 1990s Iran is believed to have sent telemetry data to North Korea in order to help them circumvent a suspension of their missile program. Their current show-and-tell involves North Korea helping Iran with airborne separation of their ballistic missiles in exchange for civil engineering expertise.
This partnership is especially troubling because of where it could be heading now. North Korea has successfully put a satellite into orbit and is likely to soon be able to attach warheads to long-range missiles.  If they have been willing to share information in the past, what is to stop them from sharing data on nuclear programs? Trade sanctions, though their effectiveness remains to be seen, have been imposed on hardware and technology exchanges, but how can one control the exchange of information? Computer data can be (and has been) destroyed remotely, but how does one stop people from talking to each other and sharing the knowledge stored in their brains? Any and all suggestions are welcome. This author has stumped herself.

So North Korea launched a rocket today.

Predictably, the North Koreans are pretty jazzed about this as they’ve tried unsuccessfully 4 times since 1998. Apparently sending a satellite into orbit is a rather tricky business – it is actual rocket science. Even on Monday there were concerns that the launch would have to be delayed another week or two due to technical problems. However, the scientists prevailed and sent the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite into orbit.

The Kwangmyongsong-3 is an Unha-3, a three-stage “carrier rocket” with a range of about 10,000 kilometers. This website displays all the interesting places located within 10,000 km from Pyongyang, for those curious. North Korea denies any militant intentions, claiming it to be just a satellite launch. They hope that the satellite will send images of crop conditions around the country as well as weather patterns. The rest of the world remains skeptical. The U.S., South Korea and Japan have all deployed naval destroyers with interception capabilities to the Korean Peninsula, just in case.

The same mechanism used to launch a satellite into orbit could easily be used to send a nuclear warhead-tipped long-range missile. North Korea has tested nuclear devices twice since 2006 and is very likely to be attempting to miniaturize warheads in order to mount them on these long-range missiles.

In response to today’s events, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. will most likely seek harsher sanctions from the U.N. Security Council. The current sanctions have placed a ban on buying or selling materials used in missile or nuclear development and have frozen the assets of individuals and organizations involved in this work. Japan has gone further, banning North Koreans from entering the country and cutting off bilateral trade.

For the record, the Security Council has condemned the launch and has said that it will consider “an appropriate response.”

So, what is an appropriate response to such an event? Is this a breach of U.N. sanctions if the satellite is indeed just for taking plant and cloud pictures? Can sanctions effectively halt further progress? Should the U.S. follow Japan’s lead and impose further restrictions?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Kardashian Factor:

How Kim Kardashian's Meeting with a US Ambassador Undermines National Security

Kim Kardashian kame to Kuwait. That may not seem like an event worth mentioning on a blog about national security policy. We know that the Kardashians aren’t exactly the best representatives of the United States abroad. They are universally emblematic of consumerist excess, moral decay, shallow Hollywood culture, and desperation for fame and wealth whatever the cost. Nevertheless, they are private individuals allowed to come and go as they please. The problem is that Kardashian met publicly with the US ambassador to Kuwait.

Kardashian chats with Ambassador Tueller.
Kim Kardashian’s jaunt through the Middle East – she visited Bahrain, too—was ostensibly to open a couple of milkshake stands and promote her “Kardashian Kollection.” Reactions spanned the spectrum. Fans excitedly cheered the stilettoed pop culture princess everywhere she went. Meanwhile, in Bahrain, conservative lawmakers attempted to bar her from the country. In both Bahrain and Kuwait, clerics joined the chorus of conservative lay-people gave speeches, declaring Kardashian’s morally corrosive presence “could help spread vice among our youth.”

The United States justifiably defends itself, explaining the Kardashian klan and its koterie of konceited imitators as an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise overwhelmingly positive free and open society. Most Americans would agree that this is true: many of them don’t like what the Kardashians stand for much more than conservatives in the Middle East. Regardless, they should be free to go where they want. It’s not the right or duty of the American government to police national image on an individual basis.

In any case, Kim Kardashian is not entirely detrimental to American interests. She is also part of America’s considerable “soft power.” Despite many negative perceptions, she is also an example of America’s ability to produce celebrities known the world-over. To some, she even stands as a symbol of American wealth, opportunity, glamor, and style.

Kardashian, normally a pesky PR problem abroad, only becomes a real danger when she is directly identified with the American state. As soon as any of her ilk are given a semblance of official recognition, the argument that they aren’t representative of American values begins to ring a bit hollow.

And that is exactly what happened when Kim Kardashian met publicly with the US Ambassador to Kuwait, Matthew Tueller. There was no reason for the Ambassador to meet the starlet. She wasn’t there on official government business. She didn’t come as a private citizen to support a government venture or to pursue a political cause. It would have been very easy to let Kardashian splash across the headlines and let the visit quickly fade from memory.

Instead, the ambassador chose to meet with Kardashian, giving her the sheen of official recognition. Pictures of her, visible bra, cleavage and all, sitting next to Tueller appeared all over the web. Hours before, police disbursed dozens of protesters with tear gas.

America is a relatively tolerant country. Imagine how dramatically public opinion could change in America if the Saudi Arabian ambassador met publicly with a burqa-swathed Saudi Arabian holocaust denier. That one action would confirm a skeptical public’s worst suspicions about the shady monarchy’s real beliefs.

In relatively absolutist countries the tendency to identify media figures with the government is even stronger. To an individual who grew up in an absolutist state, Kim Kardashian would require at least tacit government approval simply to exist, much less to travel abroad. Put this symbol of American excess and sacrilege in the same room as the ambassador, and those with pre-existing anti-American tendencies’ worst suspicions are confirmed. Just as intolerant Americans immediately assume Saudi Arabia is a country made entirely of woman-hating holocaust deniers, intolerant groups and individuals in the Middle East reflexively see confirmation of their view of America as a shallow moral cesspit intent on exporting its easy virtue elsewhere. It isn’t a rational response, but the heuristics of bias-confirmation aren’t easily countervailed.

This is not to say that Kim Kardashian is singly responsible for suicide bombs in Jerusalem. But every time American officials positively acknowledge individuals like the Kardashians, those with extremist tendencies are given more reason to believe their delusions are justified. Conservative popular opinion may turn further against the United States, but worse still, the tiny portion of the population inclined towards acting violently against the United States gets a nudge further in that direction. Those meetings give extremist groups propaganda on a plate. Fanatics already use individuals like Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton to feed moralistic hatred of America in those with deeper-seated reasons for loathing our country. There is no reason for government officials to fan the flames.

America’s policy should simply be not to engage with private individuals of any variety not visiting for official or political reasons in regions where anti-American extremism is a significant risk factor. Kardashian’s visit should have been allowed to proceed without acknowledgment by American officials. Whatever soft power she may have earned for the United States would still have accrued, but without adding another official photo-op to the heap for anti-America propagandists.

A New Type of Fight: Electronic Warfare

Nuclear warfare was the nature of the threat during the cold war. Today, cyber warfare is replacing the traditional types of military engagement between countries with cyber capabilities. Having optimal national security requires an ability to predict the next emerging and disruptive technologies, and the capability to develop weapons and defense systems for these threats. As electronics become ever more integrated into the functioning of daily life, electronic weapons with the capability to disrupt society will become and increasing threat.

Electronic weapons function by releasing electromagnetic pulses into the atmosphere. Most people may be aware of the electromagnetic pulse that can be generated by a nuclear bomb. There has been much hysteria surrounding the results of a successful EMP attack that could destroy electronics that run our hospitals, transportation systems, satellites, and communication systems. How could society function if the world were to suddenly go dark?

These new type of weapons, already being developed by key defense contractors like Raytheon, are designed differently. These devices are pointed energy systems that focus a large amount of electromagnetic energy on a single point instead of releasing it as a spread in the atmosphere. The literature on these types of weapons suggests that they would only do significant damage to electronics and not to humans. Though it is true that the electromagnetic energy generated from common devices, such as cell phones, do not cause bodily harm, it would seem unlikely that such a concentrated amount of energy couldn’t do damage to the human body.

Nonetheless, these devices are already being developed and implemented by the United States Military. Planes such as the F-35 and Bowing Growler use this technology for defensive and offensive purposes respectively. Ships are being fitted with active electronically scanned array (ASEA) guns that have to capacity to disrupt a swarm of 30 boat motors. The explosive payload on missiles has been replaced with this type of technology to target electronics as well. 

Besides these common military applications however, Raytheon has developed the most interesting implementation of electromagnetic weaponry. The Active Denial System (ADS) is designed to heat the moisture in a persons skin, resulting in a reaction to flee the area.  These systems were even shipped to Iraq, but were never implemented in combat before they were sent home.

There have also been many developments in ways to defend against an electronic attack. Most notably would be the  implementation of Faraday cages to shield any emittance of electromagnetic energy by using conductive materials. Planes can be fitted with faraday cage shields in order to thwart ASEA attacks. Even materials such as concrete are being added with conductive material to provide potential shields for buildings. 

There are a variety of ethical issues surrounding the use of these weapons. Until studies can be conducted that conclusively show high levels of electromagnetic radiation can cause damage to humans (such as cancer development) these devices will continue to be marketed as the newest and best way to engage in warfare with few casualties. For the time being though, most of these weapons will be designed to target electronics and not humans as a result of their negative, sci-fi personification by most of the general public. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Compromise is Key

When considering the peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the dulcet tones of Adam Levine singing “She Will be Loved” come to mind: “It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along…” If there is ever going to be a lasting arrangement, both Israel and Palestine must realize that neither of them is going to get exactly everything that they would like. Peace isn’t about perfection; it’s about recognizing what each side is willing to give up in exchange for security and respecting those concessions.

The two-state solution currently being pursued is based upon a few core issues. Palestine would like for its borders to be based upon the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, with a land swap to follow. This land swap would help to reconcile the problems involved with the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Understandably, Israel would like to keep these settlements. Palestine would prefer they not exist, but is willing to negotiate if Israel agrees to the division of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem contains the al-Aqsa mosque, third holiest site of Islam. Palestine would like to reclaim control of this part of the city. Israel is adamant that Jerusalem remains the undivided religious and political center of the Jewish People. (For those curious, the U.S. does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv).

The November 29th vote by the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a “non-member state with observer status” has changed the dynamics of negotiations. Palestine’s new standing, one it shares with the Vatican, allows them to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also increases its chances for joining International Criminal Court and other UN agencies – something Palestine is very interested in doing as it wishes to pursue various war crimes and crimes against humanity charges within the ICC. Palestine is optimistic about its new status, saying this gives them firmer footing from which to engage in negotiations. Israeli officials claim that this new designation changes nothing.

Despite these claims that Palestine’s new credibility within the UN have no real effect, one day later Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a project for 3000 new homes in West Bank on the eastern and southern edges of Jerusalem. These so-called “E-1” settlement plans are a strategic method of retaliation. By cutting off traditionally Arab communities from Jerusalem and dividing the northern and southern halves of the West Bank, Israel can rather effectively diminish Palestine’s ability to reclaim control of East Jerusalem.
These settlement plans give the impression that Mr. Netanyahu, despite endorsing a two-party solution in 2009, has no real intention to cede any territory to Palestine. This greatly diminishes the prospect for a peace agreement. Though the international community has condemned these proposed settlements (ambassadors were heartily rebuked in London, Paris, Canberra and other capitals of usually friendly nations), the U.S. has not offered very strong criticism. Settlements in E-1 have previously been blocked, but as the author of the article “Barriers to peace” in this week’s issue of The Economist notes, “Mr. Netanyahu would not have announced the settlements unless he thought he could get away with it.”

With the Arab population growing faster than the Jewish one, it is in Israel’s best interest to reach a two-state solution while Palestinians are still amenable to such an arrangement.  A single-state solution will eventually lead to Israel’s Jews becoming a minority within their own country – a situation that they would surely find unfavorable. If the U.S. is truly a friend to Israel, we should be pushing Mr. Netanyahu to abandon his incendiary settlement plans and get serious about reaching a long-term solution involving compromises on both sides.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fall 2012 Final Exam

National Security Policy
DIP 600 Fall 2012
December 7, 2012

Please answer one of the following three questions. Your answer is due by 5pm today.

  1.  Over the past ten years, the United States has substantially expanded and improved upon its diplomatic and military relationship with India. What are the American goals for this relationship? What do the Indians get out of it? Is the expanded commitment to India a good idea, or are there unforeseen pitfalls? 
  2. The unmanned aerial vehicle campaigns over Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen continue to evoke controversy. Evaluate these campaigns from strategic, legal, and moral viewpoints. What values does the campaign further, and what are the tradeoffs associated with the attacks? 
  3. Consider the relationship between diplomacy and force. How does the use of force constitute diplomatic activity? Is it reasonable to claim that some adversaries “only understand the language of force?” Please use real-world examples

Foreign Policy Issue Leaders in Congress

From Photo Gallery: Our Unpopular Congres
      Today only 9% of Americans approve of Congress. In other words Congress’s approval rating is the same as Hugo Chavez’s in 2007, even less than BP’s approval during the oil spill in 2010 and less than the ratings of banks and Oil and Gas industry in general. Low ratings of Congress are not a new thing and American public is not an exception for not loving their legislators, but 112th Congress was still unprecedentedly unpopular and dysfunctional. U.S. has had divided governments before, but the last Congress had clearly been the least productive – it has adopted the least number of laws in the history of Congress; obstructionism and filibuster have become much too common, for example, the House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 33 times; it’s extremely polarized along the party lines, and is unprecedentedly falling behind on appropriations approvals. The situation is even worse when it comes to Congress’s role in foreign policy.  Richard Lugar observed in his commentary  that for the last six years only two foreign-policy initiatives have come to the Senate floor in an amendable format, these where new START treaty in 2010 and America’s global efforts to combat AIDS in 2008.

Both, Administration and Congress are blaming each other for not being cooperative. Administration is usually pointing the finger at Congress’s inefficiency and partisanship. At the same time, it is to certain extent annoyed, when congressional leaders become more actively involved in foreign policy, in the field where the leadership of White House feels it has an exclusive mandate. Some of the Congressmen and Congresswomen have been widely criticized for making frequent or uncoordinated visits overseas and meeting with foreign leaders. One of such cases was Nancy Pelosi’s meeting with President Assad in 2007, when she allegedly delivered the message from Israeli Prime Minister. Newt Gingrich makes a good point, that “it’s very important not to have two foreign policies,” that Congressional leaders and Administration speak the same language. If there is no conflict between their statements and/or if congressional leaders speak only of themselves and not on behalf of the U.S. government, they should be free to travel wherever they want and meet whoever they find relevant. On the other hand, Congressional leaders blame Administration for not involving Congress in foreign policy matters. Many believe that Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations paid much more attention to Congressional participation than the George W. Bush or Barack Obama administrations do. Ex-Senator Richard Lugar wrote in his recent commentary that even though Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are responsive to their former colleagues, “the Obama Administration as a whole has frequently resisted Congressional involvement in major foreign-policy decisions and issues. On several key questions, in fact, the Administration has aggressively challenged Congress's foreign-policy powers.” Mr. Lugar was referring to the 2011 Libya Operation and Obama’s less known decision to revise the practice of Congressional approval of U.S. arms sales.
Given this reality it is interesting to look at who were and are foreign policy and national security issue leaders in Congress today. Competitive environment of the Cold War has clearly encouraged legislators’ foreign policy initiatives. Joe Lieberman, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, nicknamed “the three amigos” by General Petraeus, are often described as legends, who were present and participated in every foreign policy discussion. Many believe that it was their bipartisanship that made their trio so influential and attractive. Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham represented conservative camp, while Mr. Lieberman was an independent democrat-turned senator. Other significant foreign policy voices were and are Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), authors of Nunn-Lugar Act of 1992, Joe Biden (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 2001 to 2009 who advocated deeper relationship with Russia, NATO’s eastern expansion, tougher China policy, and etc., John Kerry (D-MA), Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2004,  who is believed to be one of the candidates to head Pentagon in Obama’s second administration, Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and an advocate for strategic, tactical, and scientific values of UAVs, John Kyl (R-AZ), member of the subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and a Republican Whip, and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), whose foreign policy achievements during her tenure in Senate is questioned by some, but still she was clearly more vocal and visible on foreign policy scene than her other peers.     
Most of the Democrats mentioned above, except for John Kerry, have either retired or took up the public office in Obama administration. Now John Kerry is also being considered on the position of Pentagon Chief. Hence, almost all old generation foreign policy congressional leaders left in Congress are Republicans and so are the so called “emerging leaders.” These are New Hampshire’s Republican Kelly Ayotte, who was one of the candidates considered as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Many think she will be replacing outgoing Mr. Lieberman in “the trio”, although she won’t be able to add the ‘bipartisanship component’ and the unique foreign policy experience to the team. She has already acted in tandem with Mr. McCaian and Mr. Graham criticizing Administration’s response on Benghazi. The new trio’s first joint attempt to hold Ms. Rice or the Administration accountable was limited and not very impressive. Other, even younger, emerging leaders seem to be Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), member of House Committee on Energy and Commerce and a Deputy Republican Whip. He’s a proponent of nuclear energy and has declared U.S.’s energy independence as his number one priority. And Tom Cotton (R-AR), a freshman in Congress, seen as experienced in Afghan politics because of his army background. 

So, the trend at first glance seems to be that conservatives lead the foreign policy agenda in Congress and there are very few new faces. There might be more influential personalities among staffers, but public information about them is very limited. Also, it is widely acknowledged that because of this lack of experienced issue leaders, especially after closure of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and Congress’s Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the lobbyists and issue-advocates have become more influential.   

Questions to think about –
a.      Does this mean that Congressional oversight on Administration’s foreign policy is even weaker today than before? What implication can that have for U.S.’s foreign policy and on the Administration?

b.     What is the desirable level of congressional leaders’ involvement in foreign policy? Or is this the area which the White House can handle the best?

c.      Would you add anyone to the list of the “new generation foreign policy” leaders? Or do you think anyone mentioned above is irrelevant?