What are the global implications of gridlock in Washington? What should President Obama do about Syria? Why are our world leaders failing to lead and who can hold them accountable? These are a few of the issues addressed by Dr. Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group, in an interview which coincided with the very first day of the U.S. government shutdown.
In his latest book, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, David Kilcullen, the Australian counterinsurgency expert, attempts to formulate a unified theory of irregular warfare. Kilcullen’s study is both timely and relevant. Covering contemporary global trends in counterinsurgency, the Arab Spring, urban planning, militia tactics, transnational criminal networks and other related topics, Kilcullen provides insightful analysis of current and future conflict.
Considering the drawdown from two major ground engagements that have lasted the U.S. military (USMIL) over a decade and the related budgetary pressures on resource allocation, the nature of USMIL activities in the years ahead has already begun to reveal itself. As the U.S. continues to shift from high-visibility, heavy presence interventions to more refined capacity enhancement initiatives and surgical direct action missions, the military will need to rely less on brawn and more on craft. Fortunately, the USMIL has been carefully cultivating Special Operations Forces (SOF) for decades that are perfectly suited to counter the challenges that lay ahead.
Over the past twelve years, a single Congressional resolution has allowed the United States to carry out military activities that constitute arguably some of the darkest marks on the tapestry of our national history. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed immediately following the September 11th attacks over the course of only three days, with, according to former California Congresswoman Jane Harman who voted afﬁrmatively on the resolution in 2001, “ﬁve hours of debate in the House and even less in the Senate.” The 60-word, less than two-page resolution is representative of the best intentions of those scrambling to lead a nation in the face of the most signiﬁcant threat to its security in modern history. However, the circumstances we face in 2013 no longer ﬁt those which fostered the AUMF’s creation.
Three months now after the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt that gripped a nation, Americans are still struggling to come to terms with the motives and the meaning behind the event. Why did the Tsarnev brothers, seemingly of their own accord, decide to commit the act in the first place? Is this sort of attack truly here to stay, as former lieutenant general Michael Barbero told USA Today?
Allstate’s Senior Vice President of Public Relations Marci Kaminsky opened the floor at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center for a discussion on “Transparency in the New Economy” by reassuring the audience that the talk was planned in advance of the recent privacy debacles concerning the IRS and the NSA. The irony of the lecture’s scheduling serves as a reminder that the issue of privacy in a technology-driven world, although more or less physically intangible, gains momentum and yields real repercussions for Americans every day.
In a capstone to illustrate the growing importance of the issue of privacy, the headlining debut of Heartland Monitor’s 17th quarterly poll disclosed a prevailing discomfort among Americans about information sharing, as well as the lag time in innovation between increasingly “smarter” technology and adequately stringent privacy measures. In presenting the data, Edward Reilly, global CEO of Strategic Communications at FTI Consulting, highlighted a key finding of a “negative gut reaction to big data” among 1000 respondents surveyed between May 29th and June 2nd of 2013—just 4 days before the controversial release of Edward Snowden’s report on the government’s PRISM program in The Washington Post and the Guardian.
As fighting intensifies in the 27-month old Syrian conflict, showing no signs of letting up, the number of those affected and displaced continues to rise, and the atrocities become more brutal.
“Every time I speak about the humanitarian situation in Syria, I have to find more severe words to describe how badly it is escalating,” Radhouane Nouicer, the United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, told Diplomatic Courier. “The most worrisome trend is the continuous deterioration.”
The fighting deepens as the balance of power ebbs and flows. In June Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies seized the rebel stronghold of Qusair, a key crossroads town connecting Damascus with western and northern Syria.
The onslaught was a serious blow to the rebels. It also raised concerns over the rise of Hezbollah fighters in the conflict and prompted action by the U.S., which had been weighing options about arming rebels in a lengthy internal debate.
Since 2011 Syria has rocked with violence, eventually civil war. Initially peaceful protests against the Assad government quickly escalated to thousands of deaths and the destruction of a country. The Syrian conflict is something that Washington and the U.N. have avoided, even while privately—and sometimes openly—questioning what is to be done. Is it time that the U.S. intervened in the Syrian civil war?
In early June, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee hosted a briefing on “Crisis Syria: Going Where?” featuring Ms. Mona Yacoubian, Senior Advisor, Middle East at the Stimson Center; Mr. Ian Pannell, Correspondent for BBC News; Professor David Des Roches, Senior Military Fellow at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University; Ms. Sharon Waxman, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee; and Professor Paul Sullivan, Professor of Economics at National Defense University and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President and CEO of National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, served as moderator.
The Syrian conflict has been different than all other recent political unrest in the region; war has erupted, and fighters against the Assad regime have ranged from disaffected Syrians to foreign Islamist mujahedeen come to fight. Recent casualty figures have estimated a conservative 100,000 deaths, mostly of civilians. Mona Yacoubian, former Senior Program Officer on the Middle East at the U.S. Institute of Peace, stated, “The situation on the ground is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe.” While further explaining the horrors of war, she continuted, “There are three constants from the very beginning that I would argue are responsible for how Syria got to where it is today.”
With President Obama’s second term secured, he should offer Iran security guarantees and economic incentives in exchange for limitations and full transparency on its nuclear program, as well as a commitment to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue within a positive-sum framework.
U.S. security guarantees would include a commitment not to attempt to overthrow the Iranian government or attack Iran’s nuclear program as long as Iran adhered to its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Additional Protocol.
Economic incentives would include a commitment to secure congressional support for a phased lifting of sanctions, an end to U.S. opposition of oil and gas investments and pipeline routes through Iran, and the prospect of future trade agreements, scientific exchanges, and access to alternative energy technology and financing.
Iran would be expected to comply fully with the NPT and Additional Protocol and immediately cap its uranium enrichment activities at the 20 percent level to a quantity determined by the IAEA as necessary for its legitimate medical applications.
After more than a decade of wars triggered by the attacks of September 11th, 2001, it is time for a new conversation—one that asks serious questions and welcomes a wide array of serious opinions—on how the United States formulates and executes its national security strategy. To address the implications of these and countless other issues, the Armed Forces Committee at the Harvard Kennedy School has established the Values and National Security Project. This is the third article in an ongoing series seeking to promote dialogue on the early 21st century security paradigm. Read the first, second, and third articles here.
Last week, a bi-partisan “Group of Eight” senators introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country. The bill includes increased border security, a mandatory worker verification system for employers, and provisions for the flow of workers based on the needs of the economy, from the fields of South Carolina to the Silicon Valley.
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