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Posts Tagged ‘arms sales’

Since it is the season of giving, I’ve got some super exciting, extremely provocative, and amazingly fascinating great power stories for you to check out. I mean we got….sanctions, Hugo Chavez, Polish missiles, Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, an Islamic Reformation, and cyberwarfare in Iraq. One of those was just a tease. Another present? GPP’s 4th Great Power Rankings will be out this weekend. Print it out, wrap it, and give it to your loved ones.

Sanctions and Strategy – This is a provocative (I told you that would be here) analysis of the use of economic and political sanctions in modern international politics by George Friedman at Stratfor. Friedman, a staunch IR realist, is more than a little skeptical about sanctions usefulness in actually changing a state’s behavior. Friedman’s conclusion concludes that sanctions are just a way of buying time and passing the buck:

The ultimate virtue of sanctions is that they provide a platform between acquiescence and war. The effectiveness of that platform is not nearly as important as the fact that it provides a buffer against charges of inaction and demands for further action.

Sanctions satisfy the need to appear to be acting while avoiding the risks of action.

Hugo’s Russian Missiles – About a week ago, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez stated his country had received thousands of Russian-made missiles and rocket launchers as part of his government’s military preparations for a possible armed conflict with neighboring Colombia. Chavez claimed: “They {Colombia} are preparing a war against us. Preparing is one of the best ways to neutralize it.” In recent years, Hugo’s regime in Venezuela has grown closer and closer to Moscow and it has been reported that Venezuela has bought more than $4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, ‘including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. In September, Russia opened a $2.2 billion line of credit for Venezuela to purchase more weapons.’

A more distressing issue though is Chavez’s military build up on Venezuela’s border with Colombia and released reports that his government is aiding and abetting FARC members. The US should make it loud and clear that any overt aggressiveness by Chavez would be met with a strong rebuke, mainly with international pressure and military assistance to Colombia. However, I doubt anything serious will occur.

Cyberwarfare in Iraq and Beyond – Shane Harris of The National Journal has written a fascinating (told ya!) article about the recent past and present of US cyberwarfare tactics and defense. Harris asserts that President Bush authorized a cyberattack on cell phones and computers used by Iraqi insurgents to plan roadside bombings in May 2007. Anonymous officials reported that the Americans were able to deceive their adversaries with false information and led them into the fire of waiting U.S. soldiers. Well, I’m impressed and think this needs to be a tactic that the US military continues to exploit. Harris credits former Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell and Gen. David Petraeus for bringing cyber threats to the table under the Bush administration. Gen. Former President Bush formed the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), which President Obama is attempting to enhance and grow. In regards to our beloved great power politics, Harris quotes Kevin Coleman, a senior fellow with security firm Technolytics, who asserts that there is basically a three way tie between China, Russia and the U.S in terms of cyberwarfare capability. The whole articles a must-read.

Poland’s American Missiles – A Status of Forces Agreement has been reached between Poland and the US, which calls for American troops to install and operate a mobile, land-based set of short- and medium-range missiles to defend against incoming attacks. In other words, after scrapping the major Czech-Poland-American missile defense plan, the Obama administration has put in place a similar program, but on a much smaller, disconnected scale. Russia, of course, is concerned about this recent development. Though I was against the cancellation of the earlier plan, I applaud the Obama administration for a rather quick strategic re-engagement with a trusted ally, Poland.

Special Relationship, Not So Special – I’ve discussed this at least twice before so I don’t need to get into too much here, but the Obama administration has continued to distance itself from the British Isles. I think this is wrong for many reasons and hope the administration changes course soon.

Islamic Reformation, Not Looking Too Likely Anytime Soon – New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote an exciting (ok, that one was forced) op-ed calling for internal changes within the Islamic community. Here’s an example of what Friedman sees as wrong or failing in parts of the Islamic world and with reactions to it in the US:

(Referencing the recent terrorist bombings in Baghdad) Not only was there no meaningful condemnation emerging from the Muslim world — which was primarily focused on resisting Switzerland’s ban on new mosque minarets — there was barely a peep coming out of Washington. President Obama expressed no public outrage. It is time he did.

Friedman is right, there really is very little the United States can do to get to the heart of Islamic violent extremist dilemma. Their neighbors, family, countrymen need to stand up and say ‘this type of behavior is wrong and does us much more harm than good’. In referencing Friedman’s article, I found an even better one on the subject by Tom Bevan.

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"War is Hard!"

Stanley McChrystal’s Long War – Dexter Filkins excellent profile  of America’s top commander in Afghanistan clearly showcases the challenges of going ‘all-in’ and ‘getting out’.  McChrystal comes off as vibrant, smart, and worthy General, but the task ahead of him is depicted as likely insurmountable. Here are some choice bits…

McChrystal on counterinsurgency:

“The insurgency has to have access to the people,” McChrystal told me. “So we literally want to go in there and squat among the people. We want to make the insurgents come to us. Make them be the aggressors. What I want to do is get on the inside, looking out — instead of being on the outside looking in.”

McChrystal on negotiating with parts of the Taliban:

“Pashtun culture adjudicates disagreements in a way that mitigates blood feuds. The Pashtun people go out of their way not to do things that cause permanent feuds. They have always been willing to change positions, change sides. I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven; I think they are practically driven. I’m not sure they wouldn’t flip to our side.”

Filkins felt that McChrystal had undervalued the importance of Karzai’s legitimacy:

But increasingly, McChrystal, as well as President Obama and the American people, are being forced to confront the possibility that they will be stuck fighting and dying and paying for a government that is widely viewed as illegitimate.

When I asked McChrystal about this, it was the one issue that he seemed not to have thought through. What if the Afghan people see their own government as illegitimate? How would you fight for something like that?

“Then we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy,” the general said. “That is the key thing.”

Filkins does a fair job in showing both sides of the debate facing the Obama administration right now, more troops to fight the Taliban or a more Al Qaeda-focused counterterrorism strategy, but the aspects that stayed with me the most were the words of Afghans in the Taliban controlled south who voiced their concern that the US could not be trusted because there was no telling how long they would be there.  On the other hand, the Taliban weren’t going anywhere.  This factor alone affects nearly all other strategic inputs and outputs.

Think Again: God – Vaunted religious historian Karen Armstrong tackles conventional wisdom on the role and importance of religion in today’s Western world.  Armstrong tackles such topics and ‘truths’ as ‘God is Dead’, ‘God and Politics Don’t Mix’, and ‘God Breeds Violence and Intolerance’.  Armstrong reminds us that religion continues to be a major factor in US culture and politics and international relations.

The Next 100 Years – Stratfor lead analyst George Friedman takes a stab at predicting the next century’s major geopolitical shifts and events.  Here’s his eye-grabbing introduction: “Japan and Turkey form an alliance to attack the US. Poland becomes America’s closest ally. Mexico makes a bid for global supremacy, and a third world war takes place in space….”

US Arms Sales – This is more a bit of news than an analysis, but the facts here tell an astounding story. American arms sales lead the world and its not even close.  The US sold nearly 70% of all global arms with total sales reaching nearly $38 billion.  Second place?  Italy with $3.7.  Now that’s a gap!

Assassination: A Brief History – This one’s pretty self explanatory.  Like all policies or strategies, assassination has its benefits and drawbacks.  

Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan Op-chart – A simple, but telling story of the progress in Iraq, and degradation of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last few years.  Short and sweet geopolitical info!

The CIA in Double Jeopardy – Another good reason why the Obama administration should drop their prosecution of CIA agents.

That’s it.  Well, almost….

Obama To Enter Diplomatic Talks With Raging Wildfire

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