The last thing Beijing wants to see at the Olympic opening ceremonies on August 8 is Tibetan flags, "Stop genocide in Darfur" signs, or similar such provocations from "troublemakers." And given Beijing's paranoia, it's hardly surprising that this year's opening and closing ceremonies are going to have some of the tightest security of any event, ever.
Each ticket for the ceremonies will have a microchip embedded with the user's photograph, passport details, addresses, emails, and telephone numbers. All event tickets also have microchips to prevent counterfeiting, but only the ceremony tickets will contain the personal data. Some have raised fears of data theft, and others question whether activists known to the Chinese authorities could even attempt to attend, since many of them are being detained or at least closely watched ahead of the games. Perhaps the biggest concern is that the tickets will be too effective: If you are attending the ceremonies with a few friends or family members and your tickets get switched among you, expect big delays at the gates.
Pakistan will pull its troops out of the Swat valley in its Northwest Frontier Province according to an agreement signed today by government negotiators and local Taliban leaders. Local authorities also agreed to enforce Sharia law so long as girls are allowed to attend school and militants do not carry weapons in public. Pakistan's new government is also negotiating a seperate agreement with Baithullah Mehsud, leader of Pakistani Taliban and suspect in Benazir Bhutto's assasination. The U.S. worries that peace deals will give the Taliban more freedom to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan.
In an FP web-exclusive posted yesterday, Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations doubts that these deals will hold up, but argues that the U.S. still should not oppose them. Even a temporary ceasefire, he says, could give Pakistan some time to recover from recent military and political setbacks and allow development projects access to previously off-limits parts of the country.
We'll have more on the developments in Northwest Pakistan in the coming days.
Most of the new Global Peace Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit isn't all that surprising. Perennial global list-toppper Iceland is apparently the most peaceful country in the world while Iraq is the most violent. Even the United States' rank, 97, isn't really much of a shock. It's fighting two wars after all.
But does Russia really deserve to be 10th from the bottom, behind violence-wracked states like Colombia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, DR Congo and Pakistan? Here's the explanation:
Russia scored low because of its high military spending, booming arms sales and poor relations with its neighbors, says the study, the brainchild of Steve Killelea, an Australian philanthropist and entrepreneur. Also hitting Russia's ranking were "high scores for homicides, jailed population, distrust among citizens, violent crime" and a lack of respect for human rights, it said. [..] While the study noted "increased stability in Chechnya," it pointed to Russia's "moderately tense" relations with its neighbors and extremely high arms exports.
Fair enough. Russia's not exactly Iceland. But as bad as things are in the North Caucasus and as repressive as Putin's government might have been, it still doesn't seem right to see it ranked five spots below Burma's genocidal junta.
For over a week now, Johannesburg has been struck by a wave of violence directed at migrants from neighboring countries. Currently the death toll stands at 22, but as riots continue today in the Reiger Park area, that number will continue to rise. So will the number of people who have been forced from their homes, which has by now entered the thousands. South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki made a plea for an end to orchestrated violence in impoverished settlements, as the government debated whether to call in the army to combat the violent mobs. So far, control of the rioting has been left up to the police, who, although they have already arrested nearly 300 people, appear overwhelmed by the situation and have seen little abatement in the xenophobic crime wave.
Zimbabweans make up a large percentage of the immigrants in South Africa, and are estimated to number up to three million in that country. As the human rights situation in Zimbabwe deteriorates, and thousands more flee post-election violence, intimidation and disastrous economic hardship, that number is likely to increase. But according to an editorial yesterday in the Financial Times:
It would be wrong to think this explosion of xenophobia is simply the reaction to uncontrolled immigration. It is also the result of rising food prices, falling living standards, unemployment of 30 per cent and above, and a government perceived as deaf to the plight of the poor."
Indeed, there are deeper issues underlying the anger spilling over in Johannesburg. Not least of which are the growing food insecurity in the nation, a broken system for handling refugees and total failure of Mbeki's government to seek political solutions to the crisis in Zimbabwe. The South African Institute of Race Relations today released a statement outlining nine policy failures of Thabo Mbeki's government including failure to maintain the rule of law, lack of border control, slowing economic growth, poor service delivery and failures of foreign policy. It seems that although Mr. Mbeki's current problem is how to put a stop to maurading mobs, prevention of future flare-ups will require both vast policy reform and more than a little soul-searching.
Singapore's robust security state may make it one of the world's worst places to be a terrorist, but some cracks are beginning to show in the country's tough image. Mas Selamat Kastari, the head of the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, is still at large after escaping from a Singaporean detention center in February.
As FP Managing Editor William Dobson reports in the upcoming issue of Newsweek, the state's failure to recapture Kastari combined and the keystone kops nature of his escape (He climbed out a bathroom window and cushioned his fall with rolls of toilet paper.) are shaking the public's faith in their regime's competence:
As much as the government is trying to spin the prison break as a cautionary tale, the episode is revealing shortcomings in Singapore's nanny state. [...] Singapore does an excellent job mobilizing its resources and directing them at recognized problems. But there are few external or independent checks on the system—and this lack of scrutiny, combined with the government's generally successful record, has produced serious blind spots. Past circumstances have made it "easy to become smug," says the Western diplomat. But this smugness has now proved dangerous.
As Dobson points out, Singapore's citizens place enormous faith in their normally ultracompetent government, allowing the state to justify its sometimes harsh authoritarianism. Officials are now scrambling to restore that faith.
The Bush administration is currently debating a plan to sell 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan. The F-16 sale was a recurring theme in a panel discussion Monday at the Carnegie Endowment on cross-straits relations featuring Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, Michael Swaine of Carnegie, and Douglas H. Paal, Carnegie's new China program director.
The participants presented somewhat differing opinions on the diplomatically sensitive move. Swaine doesn't see a good time for U.S. approval of the sale in the near to medium term. Glaser, on the other hand, feels it will happen because postponing the sale until the next administration risks getting off on the wrong foot with China. She recommends the window after the Olympics but before Bush leaves office. Carnegie's Minxin Pei weighed in that if the sale goes forward, China would likely respond negatively to a request by Taiwan to withdraw some of the 1,000 balistic missiles aimed at it. But it's not as if jets and missiles are easily equated military capabilities in tit-for-tat negotiations, Glaser said.
Glaser also remarked how this underscores a differing approach to cross-straits negotiations where some, including the U.S., view defense aid to Taiwan as a necessary precursor to productive negotiations as it gives the island nation a more solid footing on which to withstand threats. Others, namely China, strongly respond to arms sales as obstacles to diplomacy which discourage cross-straits engagement.
The State Department wants to delay the F-16 issue until after the Olympics, but I agree that if the U.S. is going to do this, it would be much better to sweep it under the rug of the outgoing administration so the new administration can chalk it up to "change" or whatever they're into at that point.
The smaller the renegade province, the bigger the pawn -- at least so it seems in the world of post-communist geostrategic positioning. Just as the dust has begun to settle around the Kosovo independence issue, Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia now find themselves front and center in the separatist question lime light.
In recent months,
With Moscow-Tbilisi tensions running high, let’s take a look at what Abkhazia and
According to this week’s Tuesday Map of Georgia’s environmental and security issues from the IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre), the two rebel provinces come complete with two refugee camps (orange triangles), two nuclear waste sites (yellow markers), and one “large aging Soviet industrial complex still generating pollution” (red circle).
Abkhazia does have a beautiful coast -- so beautiful, in fact, that the most famous Georgian of them all incorporated it into
All in all, I can see why neither
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is not pleased about last weekend's brazen attack by Darfur rebels. It was the first time fighting has reached the outskirts of Khartoum not just in the bloody five years of fighting in Darfur, but in the decades of conflict in Sudan.
Why the enormous bounty? Perhaps Ibrahim's fighting words have Bashir concerned. Here's Ibrahim in an interview yesterday, according to the IHT:
This is just the start of a process, and the end is the termination of this regime...Don't expect just one more attack. This is just the beginning."
Bashir also cut diplomatic ties with Chad on Sunday, accusing Chadian President Idriss Deby, who is from the same tribe as Ibrahim, of backing the attack. This is going to get worse before it gets better.
UPDATE: If $250 mil sounds like an absurd amount (and it does), then that's because it is. When it was reported by the Sudanese state media yesterday, it came across as just another attention-getting ploy, and that if someone actually caught Ibrahim, Bashir and his cronies would make the bounty hunter an offer he couldn't refuse, and he'd go away with far, far less. But try three zeros less: Apparently, there was currency confusion in the Sudanese government. The reward of 500 million Sudanese pounds (the equivalent of $250 mil) was offered in new Sudanese pounds, according to state media. The country revalued its currency last year, and the new pounds are worth 1,000 times the old ones. But the information office came out today and said that they're using old Sudanese pounds for some reason, so we're talking peanuts for Ibrahim: $250,000.
CIA Director Michael Hayden gave a smart talk earlier this week about where the world is headed and what role the United States will play in it (video). With the world population set to grow about 34 percent by mid-century, the agency will be especially attentive to demographic transitions in countries that can't sustain higher populations, he said. But Hayden also had a message for China:
On a very hopeful note, Hayden also said Americans have to start putting themselves in others' shoes:
[A] greater number of actors will have influence on the world stage in this century. And that presents one overriding challenge to those of us responsible for our nation's security: We must do a better job of understanding cultures, histories, religions, and traditions that are not our own. We must broaden our understanding, and guard against viewing the world exclusively through an American prism. We must not rely exclusively on an American—or even more broadly, Western—lens in assessing foreign challenges and helping policymakers decide how to respond.
Two weeks ago, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker announced that diplomats and staff could finally move into the massive, new
Apparently this snafu resulted from housing figures, calculated in 2005, that failed to predict the more than doubling in embassy staff that occured between the start and end of the embassy's construction.
To make matters worse, a portion of the staff that will remain in the trailers, currently parked behind Saddam Hussein's former palace (turned U.S. command center) will not be provided with rooftop reinforcement. They will receive some "enhanced protection," though (read: sandbags).
Without rooftop coverage, the Green Zone's looking like an awfully rough place to be these days.
Reader Jonathan Hendry wrote in with some interesting backstory related to my post about Apple, Inc. becoming a defense contractor:
Actually, [Steve] Jobs isn't a stranger to selling to the Pentagon. While his products are thought of as consumer electronics, there was a time when his best customers were in very serious industries like defense and high finance (UBS, Swissbank, Merrill Lynch, First Chicago, Soros, etc).
Jobs' company NeXT Computer (which Apple bought in 1997, bringing him back into the fold) sold quite a few machines to the spooks in the early 90s. The spy agencies liked how quickly software could be developed on the NeXT operating system. I personally interviewed for a defense-oriented NeXT programming job with, I think, Lockheed-Martin back in 1994, my senior year of college. (I don't recall what the system was, but I know I would have needed a security clearance - they gave me the forms to fill out. I wound up taking a job in Chicago that put me on a contract at Swissbank.)
Around 1993, NeXT stopped making computers, changing to an OS-only strategy. Supposedly they had to run the assembly line for a little while longer, in order to fulfill the spare-parts stock requirements of their defense contracts.
I expect Mr. Jobs is feeling a little deja vu right now.
Jonathan's email reminded me that the Pentagon has recently begun integrating Apple computers to bolster its network security. So, high-profile defense contracts are nothing new to the most powerful man in business.
Steve Jobs's shop recently announced the $278 million purchase of a small computer-chip maker named P.A. Semi—a takeover that most analysts assumed was designed to shore up efficient chip technology for future versions of the iPhone.
But it turns out some of P.A. Semi's best customers are defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and they're not at all comfortable with the company's new latte-drinking, yoga-practicing, peacenik boss. Rumors are flying that Apple will shut down production of a key processor used in "more than 10" different defense systems.
EE Times reports:
Apple Inc. may have to face the ire of the U.S. Department of Defense following its planned acquisition of P.A. Semi Inc. The startup's PWRficient processor is designed into DoD programs in every major branch of the armed services, said one P.A. Semi customer who expects Apple will end production of the parts.
"We've had customers saying they are going to the DoD on this one," said a source in one of the several companies making embedded computer boards with the processor.
Lends new meaning to the term "iPod Killer," doesn't it?
Yesterday, I attended the Jane's U.S. Defense Conference, an annual gathering bringing together American and European defense industry representatives with national-security officials. The theme of this year's conference was "the outlook for policy and defense business under the next presidency," an appropriate enough subject for the day of the Pennsylvania primary.
There was an overwhelming sense at the conference that despite billions more dollars in defense spending, the United States is not adequately preparing for the threats of the 21st century, nor is it giving the "warfighters" the resources they need to achieve victory. Major General Charles J. Dunlap of the U.S. Air Force, for instance, worried that an overemphasis on counterinsurgency was leading the U.S. to ignore the possibility of warfare with a "peer country" (read: China). Former Under-Secretary for Defense Acquisition Jacques Gansler argued that protectionism and the prioritization of congressional pork projects were causing the misuse of defense resources, necessitating a law stipulating that "Congress should not be making defense-acqisition decisions." The State Department's Deputy Director of Policy Planning Kori Schake lamented the miniscule size of her own agency's budget relative to defense, saying that every one of State's problems could be "traced back to chronic underfunding."
Oddly enough in a discussion of current national-defense priorities, Iraq and Afghanistan hardly came up until near the end of the day, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman gave a briefing on both conflicts. Given the weakness of both countries' political institutions, Cordesman feels that the term "counterinsurgency" ought to be abandoned altogether in favor of "armed nation-building." Since Cordesman sees far more progress toward this goal in Iraq, I asked him if troop withdrawal there would increase the likelihood of success in Afghanistan:
If we can move forward in Iraq in ways that seem possible, we may be down to 10 brigrades by 2009. You can't suddenly move those brigades to Afghanistan. They require retraining. They will have to be re-equipped and restructed to fight a different kind of war on different terrain, dealing with a different culture with different values.
I also have to say that while troops are important... far more important are the aid teams and advisory teams... rapid turnover of deployments in a country where personal relationships are even more important than they are in Iraq, the inability to take aid workers out into the field where they are really needed... The problem isn't troop levels and it won't be solved by moving out of Iraq."
It seems ironic that the takeaway message of a national-defense conference was that what we traditionally think of as defense can only do so much. The next president's foreign-policy team will need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time if it wants to begin to address the problems left over from the current one.
Every two years, military and government VIPs from around the world descend on Amman, Jordan for the Special Operations Forces Exhibition, the Middle East's largest military equipment trade show. Exhibitors and buyers from the United States and Britain rub shoulders with their counterparts from Libya and Syria, all in the name of superior military capability.
For more images from the convention floor at SOFEX 2008, check out the new FP photo essay, "Where the World Shops for Weapons."
It's been one of the recurring themes of the Bush administration: a rejection of the traditional concept of diplomacy as a game of give-and-take in which trading away concessions allows you to get what you want on your top priorities.
Nowhere is this more evident than in U.S. policy toward Russia. Allow me to explain what I mean. The United States and Russia differ starkly on a few discrete issues: NATO enlargement in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia, the ABM Treaty and the proposed U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) Treaty, Kosovo, the Nabucco trans-Caspian pipeline, and democracy and human rights. Meanwhile, the United States has sought cooperation from Russia on Iraq, Iran's nuclear program, the six-party talks with North Korea, and a host of other issues large and small.
Normally, you might think that the United States would prioritize these issues and make tradeoffs to achieve its most important objectives. But, as President Bush made clear in Ukraine last week, when he said, "There's no tradeoffs, period," U.S. officials don't believe they have to make any concessions. Each issue should be viewed separately and on its merits, they argue, rather than linked. Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to NATO because it's the right thing to do. Russia should not feel threatened by U.S.-backed "color revolutions" in former Soviet republics or by American defense installations in Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria. Russia should accept Kosovo's independence. Russia should cooperate in preventing Iran from going nuclear because a nuclear Iran is not in Russia's interests. And so on.
The only problem is, the Russians have a vastly different view of their own interests. They see U.S. moves, such as trying to convince Turkmenistan to sell its gas to Europe or pushing to bring Georgia into NATO, as extremely hostile acts reminiscent of the cold war. It makes them less willing to cooperate on other issues; it heightens their paranoia and feeling of besiegement, and it strengthens the elements within the Russian strategic class who see geopolitics as a zero-sum game with the United States as their chief adversary. (By the way, these are the same guys who aren't so into the whole democracy thing.) For many years, a failure to take Russian interests into account wasn't an obvious problem because the Russians were weak and took their lumps. But as we're seeing nowadays, they are willing to make provocative moves such as pulling out of the CFE treaty or threatening to split Ukraine when they don't get their way.
Now, maybe Russia is still a paper tiger and its bluster shouldn't dissuade the United States from strongly backing pro-Western governments in Ukraine and Georgia or trying to cut Gazprom off at the knees in Central Asia. Maybe some degree of democratic backsliding was inevitable after the chaos of the 1990s. I tend to think, though, that the United States underestimates how these issues interrelate at its peril. In the real world, there are tradeoffs, and we can't wish them away.
Blake Hounshell is Web Editor of ForeignPolicy.com. He has been blogging this week from the Salzburg Global Seminar session on Russia: The 2020 Perspective.
If you've been following the Olympic flame's troubled progess (it braves hostile crowds in San Francisco today), you've no doubt noticed the phalanx of Chinese guards in blue track suits, baseball caps, and fanny packs who follow it everywhere. As Der Spiegel's Alexander Schwabe reports, the guards are just as sinister as you might imagine:
The agents are described as "employees of the Beijing Organizing Committee," which founded a "flame protection squad" in August 2007. [...]
According to Chinese media, the agents are members of the paramilitary People's Armed Police, which in China is responsible for fighting unrest and maintaining internal stability. Tens of thousands of the "Wujing," as the People's Armed Police are called in Chinese, recently took part in crackdowns against demonstrators in Tibet and neighboring regions.
"These men, chosen from around the country, are each tall and large and are eminently talented and powerful," the squad's leader Zhao Si was quoted as saying. "Their outstanding physical quality is not in the slightest inferior to that of specialized athletes."
They're also racking up an impressive list of complaints from protesters as well as relay organizers for their rude conduct and heavy-handed tactics. In some cases they've even gotten into fights with local police. Sebastian Coe, the head of Britain's organizing comittee, repeatedly described them as "thugs" to the media. Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently stated that the guards would not be welcome for the Australian portion of the relay.
Eighty-five thousand miles never felt so long.
The Department of Homeland Security has quietly eased restrictions on U.S. companies looking to hire looking to hire non-immigrant science and technology students. It's probably a step in the right direction for immigration policy, since there's always more demand for these visas than supply. But it's unfortunate that that DHS had to use administrative procedures that are normally reserved for emergencies in order to get around Congress.
For this week's Seven Questions, "Waiting for a Cyber Pearl Harbor," FP asked Richard A. Clarke, former U.S. counterterrorism chief and former special advisor to the president on cybersecurity, about what offensive capabilities the new U.S. Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER) should have. He succinctly replied: "Highly classified ones."
Though Clarke isn't interested in mentioning specifics, someone else is. Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder of the U.S. 8th Air Force, under which AFCYBER will be housed once it's officially launched this fall, has revealed how the United States plans to "hit back" in cyberspace.
In an interview with ZDNet.co.uk, he said offensive capabilities that AFCYBER is working on include denial of service, confidential data loss, data manipulation, and system integrity loss. These "cyberpunches" will be paired with kinetic (physical) attacks. Elder said:
Offensive cyberattacks in network warfare make kinetic attacks more effective, [for example] if we take out an adversary's integrated defence systems or weapons systems. This is exploiting cyber to achieve our objectives.
Now that the U.S. military has put on its cyber boxing gloves, it looks like it'll be no holds barred in the online world.
At the current NATO summit, countries' troop contributions to the effort in Afghanistan has been a hot topic. Last week's FP List "Who's Left in Afghanistan?" listed the top five and bottom five countries in terms of the number of troops they had committed to Afghanistan. At the time, the top five were the United States (29,000 troops), Britain (7,800), Germany (3,210), Italy (2,880), and Canada (2,500), while the bottom five were Singapore (2 troops), Austria (2, sometimes 3), Ireland (7), Luxembourg (9), and Iceland (13*).
But these numbers can be somewhat misleading when it comes to determining who is pulling their weight, given that, for example, the U.S. population is about 1,000 times that of Iceland. So, another measure would be troop contributions relative to military-age population (defined as those between 20 and 39 years old**). When expressed this way, using updated troop numbers, it's tiny Denmark that comes out on top!
The Top 5 (troops per 1,000 people 20-39 years old):
The Bottom 5 (troops per 1,000 people 20-39 years old):
Yet another way to crunch the numbers would be to look at troop fatalities relative to the military-age population. (Just the top five, and not the bottom five, are listed here because there are several countries with zero fatalities.) Sadly for Denmark, it's at the top again:
The Top 5 (troop fatalities per 1,000 people 20-39 years old):
Kiev may have greeted U.S. President George W. Bush with several thousand "Net-NATO" (No to NATO) Ukrainian protesters, but NATO member Romania offered a far scarier welcome committee: thousands and thousands of feral dogs, running rampant in its capital city.
The NATO summit convened in Bucharest today, and while Bush was calling on transatlantic leaders to strengthen military resolve in Afghanistan inside the meeting, outside, his security detail was busy protecting nearby streets from roaming canines.
Bucharest's wild dog problem is no laughing matter, nor is it new. It began in the 1980s when Romania's brutal, inept dictator Nicolae CeauÅŸescu displaced thousands of city residents in his decision to flatten almost a fifth of the center city and build the People's House (picture the Pentagon being built on top of
But let's just hope security can keep the dogs in check for the
U.S. Secret Service agents perform a security sweep on Ukrainian cultural performers before Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and U.S. President George W. Bush arrive at St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev, April 1, 2008.
(Hat tip: On Deadline)
Nine people were killed in small village in Chechnya last night in an hourlong gunfight between separatist rebels and the police.
The violence is something of an anomaly in the troubled region, which has been relatively stable in recent years under the authoritarian rule of ex-rebel Ramzan Kadyrov (shown at right with Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev), though the number of rebel attacks in neighboring Russian provinces has increased.
Does last night's violence indicate that Chechnya's fragile stability, one of the Putin administration's main accomplishments, is coming undone just in time for his successor to inherit the mess? I asked Jonas Bernstein, senior research associate at the Jamestown Foundation and Russian defense expert, if the attacks could be in any way connected to the transfer of power in Moscow:
This does seem to be a deliberate uptick on the part of the rebels. My guess is that the rebels may be trying to send a message to the new administration that, 'We're still here.'
Russia has maintained order in Chechnya largely by arming Kadyrov and his fellow ex-rebels, an approach not unlike the U.S.'s "Anbar awakening" strategy in Iraq. According to Reuters, Russian military analysts now worry that they may have created a force they can't control if Kadyrov's loyalties shift. Kadyrov is a staunch Putinist (he even delivered a dubious 99.5 percent voter turnout for the ruling party in parliamentary elections), but could he turn against his bosses in Moscow with Medvedev in power? Bernstein doesn't see this as likely. In fact, Kadyrov is probably quite satisfied with Putin's choice:
If anything, the victory of the Medvedev faction within the Kremlin is actually to the benefit of Kadyrov. It's the harder-line, so-called siloviki, who have always been suspicious of Kadyrov... because he's a former rebel from the first war. So in that sense, depending on how things play out in Moscow, it may actually be to his benefit.
Of course, the Chechen conflict never really went away. For the most part, it simply seeped over into neighboring provinces. It would be a tragic irony if the same conflict that helped Putin consolidate his power at the beginning of his presidency re-emerged just at its end.
Australia is suffering from an acute shortage of manpower, according to Australian defense minister Joel Fitzgibbon. He says, "the service suffering most is the navy, where retention and recruitment has become a real crisis." So why is the Australian Navy in such dire straits? The Financial Times explains:
Chinese demand for commodities has triggered a crisis in the Australian navy, whose submarine fleet is suffering from a critical crew shortage as skilled technicians are lured into higher-paying jobs by the booming mining industry.
Western Australia, in particular, is attracting workers from the Navy to work in the mining industry. Fitzgibbon says that mining companies even "hover around" West Australian naval bases hoping to recruit technicians, whose skill sets are easily transferable to mining. Wage discrepancies favoring mining can be in the tens of thousands of dollars a year, leaving the Navy unable to compete for talented workers on financial grounds.
Australia has recently spent $10 billion dollars on bolstering the navy, upgrading its fleet of advanced destroyers and warships. Last year, the Australian Navy engaged in war games with the United States, Japan, and India in a "Quadrilateral Initiative" to improve their strategic partnership and bolster regional security. Many analysts believed that this initiative and Australia's naval investment were, ironically, targeted at containing a rising China. I guess the Chinese stumbled upon their own way of striking back.
As the space debris settles from the U.S. operation to take out its own satellite, the policy repercussions are quite clear: We have entered a new space age. Here's why, according to International Herald Tribune:
[O]fficials and experts have made it clear that the United States, for better or worse, is committed to having the capacity to wage war in space. And that, it seems likely, will prompt others to keep pace... What makes people want to ban war in space is exactly what keeps the Pentagon's war planners busy preparing for it: The United States has become so dependent on space that it has become the country's Achilles' heel."
This refers to the U.S. military's heavy use of satellite capabilities. So, was the United States wrong in brushing aside recent calls for de-weaponization of space? Not according to Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Space weapons are not the problem, he argues, nor is it effective to ostensibly ban them as Russia and China have proposed:
The biggest deficiency in the Russian-Chinese draft treaty is that it focuses on the wrong threat: weapons in space. There aren't any today, nor are there likely to be any in the immediate future. The threat to space assets is rather from weapons on earth -- the land- and sea-based kinetic, directed-energy and electromagnetic attack systems. The treaty entirely ignores these."
The United States' technological capabilities and needs are contributing to a loss of innocence in how the country approaches space. U.S. space policy has become a nearly impossible balancing act of maintaining defensive capabilities without becoming a strategic menace. If Tellis's argument -- that a treaty cannot provide the sweeping restrictions and enforcement necessary to keep space peaceful -- proves true, it implies an uncertain, worrisome future. The U.S. satellite shootdown may thus herald a bigger change than was anticipated. Could this have been "the kinetic kill vehicle heard 'round the world?"
The Pentagon has banned Google Earth teams from making detailed street-level video maps of U.S. military bases.... Michael Kucharek, spokesman for U.S. Northern Command, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the decision was made after crews were allowed access to at least one base. He said military officials were concerned that allowing the 360-degree, street-level video could provide sensitive information to potential adversaries and endanger base personnel."
Um, no duh. Considering that Google Earth is a favorite tool of terrorist groups -- including the Palestinian al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which uses it to target and kill Israeli civilians -- this strikes me as a pretty common sense decision.
And it begs the question: Who the heck allowed a team from Google Earth, presumably carrying all sorts of video and mapping equipment, access to a U.S. military base in the first place?
Here's a clip of Susan Rice, one of Barack Obama's foreign-policy advisors, discussing the infamous 3 a.m. phone call ad:
Clinton hasn't had to answer the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They're both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call."
(Hat tip: The Caucus)
UPDATE: MSNBC sends along the full clip, so that you can see the context and judge for yourself.
There is no shortage of Israelis who are fed up with daily rocket attacks from Gaza. One such Israeli has decided to go vigilante. A man in Ashkelon reportedly fashioned his own homemade missile to launch into Gaza. The "200-millimeter ballistic missile" also came with some fightin' words:
From this day onwards, we will push back to the stone age every place which dares shoot missiles into Israel's sovereign territory... It is time the world understood Israelis' lives are not expendable... I'm afraid this is the only language the Palestinians understand, and this is the language in which we'll speak to them."
The missile, painted with the words "to Hamas, from the residents of Ashkelon," was never fired as police stepped in to stop the man and disperse the crowd that was cheering him on and protesting the government's handling of their security. This ought to be a teachable moment: A government can prevent acts of terrorism if it has the capacity and the will to do so.
Hillary Clinton's already controversial new commercial lays out what Marc Ambinder calls her "best ... argument .. against Barack Obama." Take a look:
Clinton apparently always puts on her reading glasses for nuclear war. The ad clearly borrows its theme and tone from Lyndon Johnson's classic 1964 "Daisy" attack against Barry Goldwater. You can judge for yourself which is more effective:
It's perfectly acceptable, and even advisable, to think about who you would want in charge during a crisis when you vote. But can't we leave the cute little kids out of it?
Check out this offering from Operationcheckpoint.com, a Web site devoted to "airport security education for children":
Scan It®is an educational and creative play toy that helps children become acclimated with airport and public spaces security. The device is both a fun toy and an educational tool. It detects metal objects and simulates an X-ray scan via a functioning conveyor belt that glides articles over its metal detector path. When metallic items are present the unit beeps and lights up.
(Hat tip: Boing Boing)
But wait, there's more. Playmobil has a security checkpoint on Amazon.com:
Here are a few customer reviews:
I think this was good. I use it with my Playmobil getaway car al the time. I hope that they make a Playmobil Enemy Combatant Detention Center soon. That would be great!
One little oddity to point out is that the xray monitor displaying the bag contents shows what appears to be a fire extinguisher, a duck and several brown poo-shaped objects.
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up.
For the first time ever, the United States will use a ship-based missile to take out a satellite. In the next day or two, the world will witness a modified weapons capability that will have significant policy implications. But it's the "how" story behind the scenes that has Russia sweating.
The spy satellite malfunctioned hours after reaching orbit in December 2006. When re-entry became imminent beginning in January of this year, the U.S. Navy got busy computer coding. The Navy can now outfit a standard missile (SM-3) that was designed for intercepting other missiles with a new brain that gives it the ability to target spacecraft. In this instance, the missiles will come from an Aegis cruiser, but ground-based missiles like the ones the United States wants to put in Poland can be larger and have farther range.
Theresa Hitchens, director of the space security program at the Center for Defense Information, noted the comments of General James E. Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said in a press conference that it took the Navy three weeks to reconfigure the new targeting software. The implication? Hitchens told me:
If [the United States] wanted to develop that type of software (that could be downloaded into the missiles that would be placed in Poland), we could in a very short period of time. So I understand why the Russians might be pretty nervous about this."
A little software change, in other words, could end up posing a big threat to strategic spacecraft in the future. General Cartwright insisted this new capability will be executed on a "one-time reversible basis." But there's no way the U.S. military would throw away the keys to a new generation of missiles. The Russians would probably prefer that this Pandora's box not be opened, but once it is, all space-faring countries are going to have a new threat to worry about.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.