Global Security Headlines

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 6 Strategic Questions for 2010

Ancient Greek Plato´s teacher, Socrates, created a discipline based on asking the right questions.

For 2010, I pose the following 6 strategic questions concerning global security.

6 Strategic Questions for 2010

1. What will the international community do about Iran?
Iran´s rogue regime is nearing nuclear breakout (see Net Assessment:Iran) and tests ballistic missiles to deliver them at increasing greater ranges. The widespread public unrest over the burial of opposition leader, theGrand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, coincided with the Shia holiday of Ashoura and clashes with government security forces resulted in  many arrests and deaths. Notable is the student unrest, the country´s future. Just like the reaction in October to Mr. Ahmadinejad's fraud-tainted re-election as president, clearly the Iranian street is bubbling over with rage at the regime. The tyrants in Teheran represent a clear and present danger to Iran and the world.

2. Will radical Islamic terrorism wax or wane?
Is the so-called "Christmas Bomber" of Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit an opening shot in a wave of radical Islamic terrorism against Western interests around the world? Ungovernable Somalia and war-torn Yemen make the Horn of Africa region a hot zone haven for terrorists. Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are active as well. The tyrants in Teheran also figure into the equation given the current regime is Terror, Inc. Radical Islamic terrorism is mostly organized by state sponsors and serves as a proxy to attack larger and more powerful states.

3.  What will China’s recent gains in diplomatic currency portend?
China has risen. The Middle Kingdom´s audacious diplomatic play at the so-called climate change conference in Copenhagen in early December by besting the overmatched US President Obama is more evidence (see "China Can Say No"). China surpassed Germany at the beginning of 2009 to become the third-largest economy in the world and will pass Japan to become the second in 2010. Beijing is claiming the diplomatic power equal to its economic power. Attendant military power and more muscular power projection continues. One weakness is its so-called "soft power" or cultural assertiveness. China offers an alternative to US preeminence and it does not shy away from it.

4.  Will the Nato mission fail in Afghanistan?
Nato is losing in Afghanistan. US President Obama's half-measure of 30,000 more combat troops plus another 5,000 (pledged) from Nato allies is unlikely to turn the tide. Together, the troop contingent is the bare minimum General McChrystal requested for his new strategy. An added worry: Pakistan may yet yield to Taliban and Al Qaeda pressures complicating any scenario for "victory."

5.   Does Castro, Inc. survive?
¿Fin de la Revolución?  Castro, Inc. celebrated the 40th anniversary of its violent overthrow of strongman Batista on January 1 this year. La revolución exchanged one corrupt blood-thirsty strongman for another corrupt blood-thirsty strongman, Fidel Castro. Forty years and absolute power allowed the Castro brothers to amass a vast wealth to the point billionaire Fidel ranked in Forbes list in 2006. This came despite the hated US embargo, el bloqueo (blockade) in Castro Spanish. After a fair wage for the boss, El Jefe, really, how much is left for the proletariat?

Hard times again have hit the regime. The Castro business survived the high drama of the October 1962 missile crisis sparked by Soviet missiles on the island in Mr. Castro´s hot-headed attempt to use Moscow to get revenge on Washington after Bay of Pigs. It muddled through the  período especial (special period) after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the sugar subsidy scheme evaporated.  Castro investments in tourism and sexual exploitation were attempts to earn more hard currency, as if drug smuggling is not enough.Then, El Jefe himself, reaching mortality, "temporarily" passed the baton to brother Raúl. The king stepped aside.

Will the deteriorating status quo hold? Whenever Fidel Castro dies, the pernicious disease of Castroism has been spread to others in the region, but at least the prisoners on the paradisaical island would win the freedom and full meal they deserve if the military moved to save la patría (country).

6. What is next for the European Union?
The EU-27, from the humble beginnings of the European Economic Community (EEC), now ranges from the Atlantic Ocean to the border with Russia. Spain, the "new sick man of Europe," becomes the president for the next six months on January 1. Presidente Zapatero states he hopes to superar la indiferencia de la ciudadanía respecto a Europa (overcome the indifference to Europe). The disconnect between European elites and the citizenry has plagued the EU from the start.

It is the economy, stupid. In the Eurobarometer 72 released this month, 54% of the EU-27 believe the "worse it yet to come" economically. Socialism does not work. That failed economic theory gnaws at the core of the EU´s troubles. Double digit unemployment afflicts the member states. The EU eked out 0.4% growth in the third quarter officially ending the recession on paper. At the close of 2009, Greece emerged as a threat to the euro. There still is no president of Europe. A shared history and the attendant lingering mutual suspicions, an aging population in rigid welfare states, weak military strength and hesitancy to fully support the Nato mission in Afghanistan, energy dependence on Russia and Iran, and a Tower of Babel in diplomacy, all detract from the "union" which appears more like a collection. Add fierce nationalism in the latest round of EU appointments and large nations pitted against smaller nations as even more evidence of disunion.

Happy 2010!
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Day of Peace

And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more

 - "Vine and Fig Tree" lyrics

Around the globe, many gather with family, friends, and loved ones to share in the spirit of the holidays today.

For one day, can hostilities cease, enmities be set aside, and a common spirit of humanity reign supreme?

Peace or better termed security like freedom is a rarity on this spinning orb but a mere speck in the galaxy. As Kant reminds us, the natural state is one of war.

A wish for peace therefore must be supported by the will to wage war to protect freedom.

Freedom is losing ground

Indeed, according to Freedom House in 2008, the latest report, for the third consecutive year freedom yielded to tyranny. Despotism is on the march.

As former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin told the UN General Assembly in 1982: "As long as tyranny is armed, liberty must have and develop weapons for its defense. Otherwise, slavery will engulf the whole of mankind..."

Democratic Peace
Democracies today face an increasingly arduous task to remain free and to assist freedom lovers trapped in tyranny. International relations experts still debate the controversial theory of "democratic peace". That is, the more democracies there are the less wars there are, explains Professor Rummel.

Thus it is in the interest of democracies to expand the club in order to avoid an increase in extreme violence and war.

Democratic Future?
Bold and decisive action is required to arrest the trend toward tyranny. Fragile democracies from Colombia to the Caucasus need to consolidate gains with aid from other democratic states.
Unfortunately, the diplomatic, military, and economic power of Western democracies is waning at a crucial juncture in world history when tyranny is in ascendancy.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Net Assessment: Iran

Exclusively from Global Security Monitor at

Global Security Monitor presents Net Assessment: Iran as a guide forward for global security policymakers grappling with the Iranian problem.

A consensus is coalescing around the dire nature of Iran's challenge to the international community.

However, decisionmakers in Western capitals are reluctant to confront the challenge presented by the radical tyranny in Teheran.

Some of our key assessments are highlighted below:

  • Iran achieves nuclear breakout probably in early 2010. 
  • Its civilian and military nuclear programs are more advanced than what is publicly acknowledged. 
  • The Western democracies led by the United States fail to act to stanch Teheran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and forcefully confront the radical regime.
(81k) Download a copy of Net Assessment: Iran. | Press Release

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AQIM - Just Pesky or Rising Danger?

From out of the Maghreb, a shadowy Al Qaeda junior group has emerged to terrorize Western interests in West Africa - Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Latest Threat in Sahel

The Sahel is a lawless strip of plains and scrub along the Sahara’s southern frontier and increasingly becoming security threat to the region where terrorists, drug traffickers, and assorted bandits thrive.

After murdering a Briton and American in July after a string of attacks beginning in 2007 following a calming of internal tension in Algeria, AQIM now threatens three Spanish relief workers and a French citizen after their kidnapping in Mauritania. The latest threat to Westerners came after a US warning of such activity.

El Pais on Sunday features an article ("En manos del juez del desierto") about the so-called desert judge:

...Abú Hannas, el denominado juez del desierto, un dirigente religioso del que sólo existe una fotografía, la que aparece en los vídeos, oculto bajo su turbante mientras lanza soflamas incendiarias sobre la necesidad de crear un nuevo califato y un Gobierno islámico en el Magreb. Discursos que siempre terminan con la coletilla: "Pido a Alá morir por la yihad".

...Abú Hannas, the so-called desert judge, a religious leader of whom there is only one photograph, appears in videos hidden by his turban giving fiery speeches about the need to create a new caliphate and Islamic rule in the Maghreb. He always ends his speeches with "I ask Allah to die for the jihad."

Indeed, the Spanish link with AQIM is not new. In June 2008, security forces cracked a cell of 18 in Spain pivotal in the financing and logistical support of AQIM. It is apparent President Zapatero's precipitous withdrawal from Iraq upon winning his election after Al-Qaeda's Madrid 2004 bombing did not appease the terrorist group at all.

Transnational Threat: Drugs

Beyond terrorism, the way to fund it worries global security experts. Kidnapping for ransom is an obvious choice for these groups.

However, AQIM seems to show a propensity to dominate the lucrative drug trade in the Sahel, a subject of a hearing in the US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing earlier in November.

West Africa is a transhipment point for 40-50 tons of cocaine a year, probably more. Curiously, this week three alleged Al-Qaeda operatives were apprehended in Ghana working with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), Colombia's leftist narco-terrorist group waging civil war against Bogotá.

Indeed, the discovery of a burned-out Venezuelan Boeing in the Malian desert provides greater evidence of the South American connection narco-bandits to Islamic militants. AQIM's success in the Sahel could lead to a firmer terrorist organization in the Sahel even to the point of linking up with the Touareg insurgents in Niger and Mali.

Wider Implications

A diminution in strength is not expected. Regional terrorist analysts see a greater swath of territory dominated by AQIM giving rise to a danger and near-safe haven in yet another ungoverned part of the world.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

China Can Say ‘No’

The real story out of COP15, the so-called Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, is not the curious quest for an international agreement based on dubious science.

It is the conspicuous display of China’s full diplomatic, and economic strength on the world stage and the eclipse of US prestige.

China Leads

China hosted a closed door meeting among other partners with India and Brazil to thwart any legal binding stipulations to put teeth into any accord pushed by the United States. While it is not confirmed that Russia attended, the BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) came alive in Copenhagen.

The BRIC bloc represents the four top developing nations whose weight on the world stage is increasing every day.

Surrounded by its BRIC bloc partners, China asserted its role clearly as a leader of the “non-aligned” less-developed countries at the Copenhagen conference. This was China’s tact during the Cold War and remains a guiding principle in its international statecraft.

BRIC Ascendancy

It was US President Barak Obama who sought out Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, not the reverse, to salvage a minimal and meaningless “declaration of principles” so he did not appear to leave Copenhagen empty handed twice in a span of two months.

China told the US ‘no’ on any binding targets for reduction of CO2 gas emissions on which its economy is dependent for exports as a developing country. It will not sacrifice its economic progress and date with history based on dubious science.

The BRIC bloc is emerging as an effective counterweight to declining US primacy.

China Snubs

The Sino-US standoff began as soon as US President Obama arrived on Friday in Copenhagen. Premier Wen took umbrage from an extemporaneous line in the president's speech in a slightly veiled reference to China by insisting on "sharing information and ensuring we are meeting our commitments."

Later that afternoon in a negotiation round, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cooled their heels with three low-level Chinese delegates who could not make any political decisions. That was only the first diplomatic snub.

US Prestige Drops

The amateurish US diplomatic play by President Obama to crash China's closed door meeting (to which it was pointedly not invited) in order to desperately force even an unbinding agreement will certainly be noted by the BRIC bloc and other adversaries in the world.

The rapid drop of US prestige in the world less than one year into the naïve president’s term is quite shocking.

The Sino-US chilliness is palpable. China's handling of the weak US president has broader implications. A China that can say 'no' to the US has already risen.

The fissures exposed among the international players in Copenhagen augur a more competitive global security environment at the expense of Washington. The die is cast.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Peru Joins Arms Race

Add Peru as the latest to engage in the Latin American arms race as reported by AFP in Peru formalized purchase of Chinese tanks.  President Alan Garcia said the purchase did not represent an arms race but a repositioning of forces.

President Alan Garcia said today Peru formalized its intention to buy high-tech Chinese MBT-2000 tanks while emphasizing the measure did not contradict its “ position against an arms race.”
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mr. Obama´s Top 6 Foreign Policy Flops

Top 6 Obama Foreign Policy Flops

6. Honduras - Washington initially backed the constitutionally-removed Mel Zelaya who sought to perpetuate his presidential term beyond its time limit. It was disgraceful to embrace false coup language and side with the Castro-Chavez Club in Latin America.

5. China - President Obama was roundly criticized for showing weakness and undue deference to Beijing, the United States´ major creditor. He tepidly spoke about human rights and returned home empty-handed on issues ranging from the environment and help with Iran.

4. Afghanistan - In his latest speech, Mr. Obama abandons the war effort to defeat Al Quayda and the Taliban and signals a fundamental absence of understanding about international affairs and how to confront tyranny.

3. Russia - The US president abandoned Central European allies the Czech Republic and Poland by withdrawing a Bush-era missile defense shield against Iranian (and Russian) missiles, all in a vain effort to curry favor with Moscow on Iran sanctions.

2. Iran - It is clear that Washington has no desire to stop the Teheran Tyrants from acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Words alone cannot and do not tame tyrants. Human history is replete with examples. Sadly, the US president is not a student of history. GSM will release an exclusive Net Assessment with more details about the Iranian impasse.

1. War on Islamic Fascism - The United States is at war despite inexplicable behavior by the country´s president to deny that reality and act in a cavalier manner toward the most serious threat to the nation´s survival. From allowing some key parts of the Patriot Act to expire, closing the facilities at Guantonomo Bay to interrogate prisoners for intelligence to prevent future attacks, to allowing a civilian court trial for Khalid Sheik Muhammaed and other alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and to flinching in the stares of evil from Iran and the Al Quayda/Taliban threat in Afghanistan, it is obvious Mr. Obama is severely misinformed about the true nature of the threat.

The war within Islam has become the world´s problem manifested in the various terror groups from Asia to America. By not taking on Terror Inc - Iran - directly, the United States is treading dangerously in an increasingly unstable world partly because of US tepidness and disengagement.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

US President Obama´s Afghan Endgame: Freedom Loses

Timetable for US War Effort

Naive US President Barak Hussein Obama sounded the endgame of his country´s war effort in Afghanistan in a long-winding speech at West Point last night. His words provide  comfort to the enemies of freedom in general worldwide and Al Quayda and the Taliban in particular.

Specifically to Afghanistan, the US cuts in half the original troop request by in-theater commander, General McChrystal, to 30,000 and July 2011 was arbitrarily selected as the date to draw down the war effort, in a bow to his Democrat Party anti-war firebrands.

The United States no longer has the will the complete the mission of beating the forces of tyranny.

Thus, Mr. Obama´s own hand-picked general will be bereft of the troops and resources necessary to wage the war to a ''successful conclusion.'' Ironically, this has been a central criticism by Mr. Obama and his politcal party of the previous administration´s handling of the war.Penny-wise is pound foolish.

Decent Interval with fewer resources

The US president could not utter the word victory. Afghanistan gets a decent interval with tepid US stepped-up support and then the country is abandoned just like Vietnam.

In a nutshell, the hopes are that the US-led coalition can beat back Taliban forces sufficiently to allow Aghan forces to take on the job of protecting their country - Afghanization. This is complete folly.

Announcing a timetable assures domestic critics, but telegraphs weakness to the enemy who can adjust his tactics and strategy to accommodate the end date. Sometimes a US president must have the courage to do what is correct despite his domestic critics. In the roguish neighborhood of SW Asia, an absence of US resolve guarantees a calamitous end.

Freedom loses, again

The naive US president´s broader points in his speech demonstrate clearly his fundamental misunderstanding of global security dynamics in this first half of the twenty-first century:

        ...I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force...
        ...And we can't count on military might alone...
        ...We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone.

Tyranny does not respect diplomacy; tyranny only respects the credible threat or use of force. The naive US president may reject the use of military force, but diplomacy not backed by the stick is worthless. Soft power alone is not sufficient to persuade or dissuade opponents in a world governed by the aggressive use of force.

In some cases, unilateralism is justified when others refuse or are unable to act to defend those living '' under the dark cloud of tyranny.'' A fair reading of human history demonstrates that evil advances when good nations refuse to act. Freedom, a value the US president does not revere sufficiently, loses.

Enemy Agenda Advances Unopposed

In sum, abandoning Afghanistan is not a ''successful conclusion'' to the challenges posed by the enemy there. US allies should fear any commitment made with Washington (notice fewer  Nato troops are following on) and US enemies can push forward with their agenda without fear of reprisal. Weakness begets challenges.

A world where the US is purposely disengaged ratchets up the threats to peace and global security. Mr. Obama and his international affairs team will learn this lesson forthwith.