Global Terror

As news reports hit us piecemeal regarding global terrorism it’s difficult to build a ‘mental map’ of where those places are around the globe.

In this report, Martha Raddatz reports on recent Global Counter-terror operations, interviewing some of the most well-known experts in the field.

 

You can watch the video here.

Do We Know What the Future Will Hold?

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In a post earlier this month, I suggested that what the future comports impacts our personal lives, our families and even our fortunes. We all want to know what the future will hold, but few of us have the time to deep dive into the wealth of information that can give us some sense of what it will be.

But the “pros from Dover” at the National Intelligence Council (NIC), the parent agency for the 16 components (CIA, DIA, NSA etc.) of United States intelligence enterprise have done it.

The NIC has released their comprehensive quadrennial report forecasting global trends that have a major impact on our world, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.”  In shorthand –GT2030. Global Trends 2030 helps us have an informed and well-nuanced view of the future. I’ve “deconstructed” this report in this – and will continue to do so in future – posts:

Read more about the future in my post on the Defense Media Network website here:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/global-trends-2030-what-it-is-and-why-it-matters/

Strategic Shift: The U.S. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region.

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One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise – in the Asia-Pacific region… At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential… Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America’s intentions – our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make – and keep – credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action.

Read more about this rebalance in my post on the Defense Media Network website here.

Are We Secure?

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In the United States, our overarching desire is for security and prosperity. And while there are a number of threats we tend to worry about, there is only one existential threat to the United States. That is ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction! I’ve written a series of articles on this threat and want to share them with you.

North Korea is armed with nuclear missiles. Iran developing nuclear weapons they can put on a variety of missiles. Troubles with Russia over the Ukraine and fears Russia might flex its muscles with missiles armed with nuclear warheads. The question many are – and should be – asking is this: What capability does the United States have to deal with this kind of existential threat.

While all the U.S. military services have a stake in ballistic missile defense the U.S. Navy is now in the lead in this important warfare area. This journey is a remarkable success story – and one not yet told. Over a period of sixty years, the U.S. Navy has evolved the most versatile, and most successful, naval air and missile defense system in the world.  However, it is a journey that has been fraught with difficulty, advancing not in linear fashion, but in fits and starts, always pushing the edge of the technological envelope until it arrived where it is today.

Read more here

Drone Wars

One of the most innovative technologies used anywhere – and especially in our military – is unmanned or autonomous systems, sometimes called “drones.” These military drones have been talked about a great deal in all media, especially armed drones which are often operated by the U.S. intelligence agencies or our military to take out suspected terrorists.

Few security issues are more controversial. In an effort to shed some light in an area where there is mostly heat, I published an article with Faircount Media entitled “The Other Side of Autonomy.”

A few salient quotes from this article capture the controversy surrounding “drone wars.”

In an article entitled, “Morals and the Machine,” The Economist addressed the issue of autonomy and humans-in-the-loop this way:

As they become smarter and more widespread, autonomous machines are bound to end up making life-or-death decisions in unpredictable situations, thus assuming—or at least appearing to assume—moral agency. Weapons systems currently have human operators “in the loop”, but as they grow more sophisticated, it will be possible to shift to “on the loop” operation, with machines carrying out orders autonomously. As that happens, they will be presented with ethical dilemmas…More collaboration is required between engineers, ethicists, lawyers and policymakers, all of whom would draw up very different types of rules if they were left to their own devices.

Bill Keller put the issue of autonomy for unmanned systems this way in his Op-ed, “Smart Drones,” in the New York Times in March 2013:

If you find the use of remotely piloted warrior drones troubling, imagine that the decision to kill a suspected enemy is not made by an operator in a distant control room, but by the machine itself. Imagine that an aerial robot studies the landscape below, recognizes hostile activity, calculates that there is minimal risk of collateral damage, and then, with no human in the loop, pulls the trigger. Welcome to the future of warfare. While Americans are debating the president’s power to order assassination by drone, powerful momentum – scientific, military and commercial – is propelling us toward the day when we cede the same lethal authority to software.

Looking ahead to this year and beyond, it is clear that “drone warfare” will continue to be extremely controversial. Stay tuned!

Click here to read the entire article (PDF)

The World in 2015 – and Beyond

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As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” But isn’t that what we all want to know? What the future comports impacts our personal lives, our families and even our fortunes.

In the national security realm, we all wonder what the future will hold for the security and prosperity of the United States. There are an overwhelming number of sources inside and outside of government who “hold forth” on what they think the future will hold.

Often the art of all this is picking and choosing among those multiple pundits and focusing on the source – or sources – that hold the most promise of getting it right. For me – and for many my professional circle, that source is The National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC is the parent agency for the 16 components (CIA, DIA, NSA etc.) United States intelligence enterprise.

A vast amount of what these agencies do is highly classified and not releasable to the rest of us. But some of it is and the NIC packages the collected analysis of the eighty billion dollar a year United States intelligence enterprise and publishes it in its Global Trends series.

The National Intelligence Council has released their comprehensive quadrennial report forecasting global trends that have a major impact on our world, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.”  In shorthand – GT2030. Global Trends 2030 helps us have an informed and well-nuanced view of the future. This is not as easy as it sounds, for, as John Maynard Keynes famously said in 1937: “The idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behavior that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.”

NIC has been in existence for over three decades and represents the primary way the U.S. intelligence community (IC) communicates in the unclassified realm.  Initially a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the NIC now works directly for the director of national intelligence and presents the collective research and analysis of the entire IC, an enterprise comprising 16 agencies with a combined budget of well over $80 billion.  In a sentence: There is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the most definitive analytical look at the future security environment.

Stay tuned to this blog for more on the future….

Women at War

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It is beyond argument that American woman are increasingly important to our military services and are increasingly finding themselves in combat roles. And in our recent and current conflicts that are becoming combat casualties – either dead or wounded, often grievously. But why does American literature ignore women in combat roles? Consider this from Cara Hoffman’s insightful article:

Women have served in the American military in some capacity for 400 years. They’ve deployed alongside men as soldiers in three wars, and since the 1990s, a significant number of them are training, fighting and returning from combat.

But stories about female veterans are nearly absent from our culture. It’s not that their stories are poorly told. It’s that their stories are simply not told in our literature, film and popular culture.

I can’t help but think women soldiers would be afforded the respect they deserve if their experiences were reflected in literature, film and art, if people could see their struggles, their resilience, their grief represented.

Female veterans’ stories clearly have the power to change and enrich our understanding of war. But their unsung epics might also have the power to change our culture, our art, our nation and our lives.

Read more here

Stalled Engines

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In the previous blog post on Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds we looked at the four possible future models of the world out to 2030 – the alternative worlds portion of the study. As the title of the National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) capstone publication suggests, this look at possible alternative worlds is the essence of the study. The NIC’s companion report to Global Trends 2030, entitled Le Menu, provides the Cliff’s Notes description of this first alternative world; Stalled Engines:

“The United States and Europe are no longer capable or interested in sustained global leadership. Corruption, social unrest, a weak financial system, and chronically poor infrastructures slow growth rates in the developing world. The global governance system is unable to cope with a widespread pandemic: rich countries wall themselves off from many poor countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. By disrupting international travel and trade, the severe pandemic helps to stall out, but does not kill globalization.”

Stalled Engines is the most plausible worst-case scenario presented in the GT2030 study and, in a sentence, is one in which “all boats sink.” However, this all-too-brief description doesn’t tell us enough about the details of this alternative worlds scenario, and we need to peel the onion a bit more to understand its potential implications more fully.

Read more here

Mideast Churn

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When Dick Couch and I were offered the opportunity to “re-boot” the Tom Clancy Op-Center series we wanted to pick the spot where we knew there would be churn when the book was published – and for some time afterwards. The Middle East was our consensus choice. As we put it in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes:

The Muslim East and the Christian West have been at war for over a millennium. They are at war today, and that is not likely to change in the near future. As Samuel Huffington would put it, the cultures will continue to clash. In the past, the war has been invasive, as during the time of the Crusades. The Muslims have also been the invaders as the Moors moved north and west into Europe. Regional empires rose and fell through the Middle Ages, and while the Renaissance brought some improvements into the Western world, plagues and corrupt monarchies did more to the detriment of both East and West than they were able to do to each other.

In time, as a century of war engulfed Europe and as those same nations embarked on aggressive colonialism, the East-West struggle was pushed into the background. But it was not extinguished. The rise of nationalism and weapons technology in the nineteenth century gave rise to the modern-day great powers in the West. Yet the East seemed locked in antiquity and internal struggle. The twentieth century and the thirst for oil were to change all that.

The seeds of modern East-West conflict were sown in the nations created by the West as Western nations took it on themselves to draw national boundaries in the Middle East after the First World War. After the Second World War, Pan-Arab nationalism, the establishment of the state of Israel, the Suez crisis, the Lebanese civil war, and the Iranian revolution all kept tensions high between East and West. Then came 9/11. While it was still a Muslim-Christian, East-West issue, the primacy of oil and oil reserves remained a catalyst that never let tensions get too far below the surface.

The events of September 11, 2001, and the invasions that were to follow, redefined and codified this long-running conflict. It was now a global fight, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen to North Africa and into Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and beyond. It was global, nasty, and ongoing. Nine-eleven was pivotal and defining. For the first time in a long time, the East struck at the West, and it was a telling blow.

Surveys taken just after 9/11 showed that some 15 percent of the world’s over 1.5 billion Muslims supported the attack. It was about time we struck back against those arrogant infidels, they said. A significant percentage felt no sympathy for the Americans killed in the attack. Nearly all applauded the daring and audacity of the attackers. And many Arab youth wanted to be like those who had so boldly struck at the West.

But as the world’s foremost authority on the region, Bernard Lewis, put it, the outcome of the struggle in the Middle East is still far from clear. For this reason, we chose the Greater Levant as the epicenter of our story of Op-Center’s reemergence.

As we suggest – this churn will last a long time. And these maps help tell the story:

See these maps here

Power Failure

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First it was the Europeans who sought an escape from the tragic realities of power that had bloodied their 20th century. At the end of the Cold War, they began to disarm themselves in the hopeful belief that arms and traditional measures of power no longer mattered. A new international system of laws and institutions would replace the old system of power; the world would model itself on the European Union—and if not, the U.S. would still be there to provide security the old-fashioned way.

But now, in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the U.S. that seems to be yearning for an escape from the burdens of power and a reprieve from the tragic realities of human existence.

Until recent events at least, a majority of Americans (and of the American political and intellectual classes) seem to have come close to concluding not only that war is horrible but also that it is ineffective in our modern, globalized world. “There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare,” wrote Fareed Zakaria of CNN, borrowing from Steven Pinker of Harvard, practically on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Islamic State’s march across Syria and Iraq. Best-selling histories of World War I teach that nations don’t willingly go to war but only “sleepwalk” into them due to tragic miscalculations or downright silliness.

Read more here