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JRCBlind (and Deaf) to Security?
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Security cameras play a vital role in the safety and protection of modern life.  Despite concerns regarding their effects on civil liberties or arguments about whether or not they deter crime or acts of terrorism, they are a ubiquitous part of any public setting.  This condition provides benefits; security cameras supply vital information for counterterrorism professionals, prosecutors, and accident investigators.

Given this, the fact that half of New York City’s subway cameras don’t work raises serious concerns.  Factor in DC’s recent troubles with its emergency radio system, and questions arise as to whether or not our basic safety and security infrastructures are receiving the attention (and funding) they require.

JRCThe Other 98% of Al-Qa’ida's Victims
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

“The overwhelming majority of al-Qa’ida victims are Muslims living in Muslim countries,” so find Scott Helfstein, Nassir Abdullah, and Muhammad al-Obaidi in a recent study from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Deadly Vanguards: A Study of al-Qa’ida’s Violence Against Muslims is a data rich quantitative examination of the real victims of violent Islamists.  Unlike previous studies, the authors rely on Arabic language primary source materials – freeing them from charges of Western bias.  Also among their findings, the fact that from 2006-2008, only two percent of al-Qa’ida’s victims were from the West.

Despite the claims of Ayman al-Zawahiri that “we haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else” – the Muslims he claims to protect are much more likely to be his target than anyone else.

JRCThe Rhetoric of Proliferation
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Thursday, February 4, 2010

In a recent International Security article, the University of Texas’ Francis Gavin questions the degree to which concerns about nuclear proliferation are as complex, historically informed, and empirically based as they ought to be. Proliferation is a serious issue, a point made by Harvard University’s Vipin Narang (same issue of IS) in his article about the nuclear posture of Pakistan. But as President Obama, Congress, and the Pentagon move to shape US policy regarding nuclear proliferation, we need to avoid hyperbolic rhetoric that privileges the preexisting viewpoints and agendas of domestic actors – for it poses a real threat to the development of sound policy. What is needed, is a clear and robust reexamination of our assumptions and an evaluation of the realities, opportunities, and constraints of the international environment. These two articles support such.

JRCWhither National Security?
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Friday, January 29, 2010

While at a NATO meeting this January, Secretary of State Clinton called for expanding the concept of national securitySimilarly, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) recently ratified a landmark agreement to improve the region's ability to handle natural disasters.  Without doubt, the ability to respond to natural and other threats to the wellbeing of citizens is a central, vital role and responsibility of national governments.  But placing such within the rubric of national security is a cause for concern.

First, by default it militarizes such – for only the military (and chiefly the US military) has the heavy lift, coordination, and resource capabilities necessary to respond to such disasters.  Second, it threatens to divert and distract military forces from their core missions.  After all, the costs of such an expansion will be borne by forces already spread-thin.

JRCAviation Security: Still Not a Foregone Conclusion
~F. Jordan Evert, Presidential Administrative Fellow
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nearly a decade after 9/11, not all countries have their act together when it comes to enacting basic security measures to lessen the risk of terrorist attacks.

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald details the lack of basic aviation security measures in place for domestic flights within Australia. There is a complete absence of security at some regional airports, passengers do not need to produce photo identifications, and only those boarding jet aircraft go through metal detectors or have their bags scanned.

Aircraft remain attractive to terrorists because exploding them or crashing them into targets seizes the attention of the public and can effectively generate fear and panic, which form the lifeblood of terrorism. The Australian government should not overreact in the face of potential terrorist threats, but the time to enact proper security measure is before tragedy strikes, not after.

JRCAssumptions Then (Vietnam) and Now (Afghanistan)
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Afghanistan is not Vietnam.  Nor is it Iraq.  Counterinsurgencies, like all conflicts, are sui generis. However the use of military force to achieve national security objectives requires satisfactory answers to four questions.  What is the situation?  What resolution do we seek?  What are the likely resource costs?  What are the risks?  Strategy should be based on the answers to these questions.

In October 1964, George Ball wrote a Top Secret memo questioning US assumptions in answering those four questions relative to a growing conflict (and commitment) in Vietnam.  Forty-five years later, its worth a quick read as we revisit our answers and hopefully assumptions regarding Afghanistan.

JRCSurging the Afghan Army?
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Thursday, October 8, 2009

As the Obama administration, Congressional leaders, the military and NATO debate the path forward in Afghanistan, great attention is being given to the idea of building up Afghanistan’s security forces.  Senator Levin (D-Michigan) argues that the Afghan army ought to be increased to a size of 240,000 troops.

When Mikhail Gorbachev decided it was time for the Soviet Union to pull out of Afghanistan, the Soviets ‘surged’ the size of the Afghan army to 302,000 troops and equipped it with 1,568 tanks, 4,880 artillery pieces, and 126 fighter/bomber aircraft.  Still, the force was defeated – by many of the same insurgents we now face.

FJEThe Price of Success Can Be Greater Than Failure
~F. Jordan Evert, Presidential Administrative Fellow
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

With violence increasing before the presidential elections and the top U.S. commander admitting that the Taliban has again gained the upper hand, it may seem reasonable to focus on the consequences of failure in Afghanistan.

Speaking to a group of veterans, President Obama stated: “If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans…This [war] is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

Yet policymakers should also devote serious thought to the unintended consequences of success. If denying safe havens to terrorists makes this war a war of necessity, then there are many more wars of necessity awaiting us when and if we finish the job in Afghanistan. Somalia and Yemen are two oft-cited examples of safe havens, but violent extremists are finding fertile ground elsewhere, such as in Central Asia.

U.S. military intervention to combat terrorism can work, but it is not a viable long-term solution. Policymakers must address the underlying issues that weaken states and allow non-state actors to use violence illegitimately—but successfully—in the international system.

JRCThirsting for Security?
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Monday, August 10, 2009

Forget oil – water is the most precious resource on Earth.  Access to fresh water represents a critical component of every nation’s security.  The water deficit (the difference between supply and demand) in the Middle East is approaching 1 billion cubic meters per year.  One quarter – five million people – of Mexico City’s inhabitants went without regular access to water for weeks this spring.  According to the United Nations, 1.1 billion people live without access to safe drinking water; close to half the world’s population will live in areas of high ‘water stress’ by 2030. 

The US Senate, National Intelligence Council, and Defense Department are all engaged in serious examinations of how our changing environment will affect our national security.  As they consider the complexities of carbon caps, defending emerging Arctic sea lanes, and the effects of rising seas on the US military’s supply base at Diego Garcia – perhaps they ought to begin with a more fundamental question.  How long can you go without water?

LPKPandemic Preparedness: A National Effort
~Laura Keith, Policy Analyst
Thursday, July 9, 2009

On July 9, 2009, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Education, together with the White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, are hosting the “H1N1 Flu Preparedness Summit” to help ensure states' readiness.  The very purpose of the summit, to “further prepare the nation for the possibility of a more severe outbreak of H1N1 flu in the fall,” highlights that preparing for and responding to a pandemic is a national effort.  The event will review “lessons learned during the spring and summer H1N1 wave, and discuss best practices and preparedness priorities.”

Paul Jarris, Executive Director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, keys in on the nation's public health infrastructure in an Associated Press story and at a recent HSPI roundtable discussion on pandemic preparedness and response policy:  “Without a workforce, we can’t do anything,” he stated, noting the importance of keeping critical infrastructure running including emergency services, health care and public health.  Governments at all levels must work to help ensure that our first responders are prepared for and protected from pandemics.

JRCNew Orleans Under Water by 2100
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Blum and Harry Roberts of Louisiana State University have concluded that New Orleans and much of the surrounding coast will be underwater by the end of this century.  Their research, appearing in Nature Geoscience, attributes this to decreased sediment deposits from the Mississippi and rising sea levels.

Municipal, state, and federal leaders must begin to factor in long-term environmental change when addressing the infrastructure and security of coastal cities.

JRCH1N1 Resistance to Tamiflu
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Monday, June 29, 2009

Roche, the maker of Tamiflu (oseltamivir), is reporting the first case of H1N1 resistance to the popular anti-viral medication.  Tamiflu is commonly used to prevent influenza or to reduce its spread and shorten its severity once symptoms present.  Although the drug is not a vaccine, it plays an important role in reducing the spread of the contagion.  Currently, four anti-influenza drugs are approved for use in the US (oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine, and rimantadine).  H1N1 has already proven resistant to two of them – amantadine and rimantadine.  Should H1N1 develop wide spread resistance to a third, efforts to check this pandemic could be significantly eroded.

Swine Flu Cases Rapidly Increase as Media and Public Shift Attention
~Jason Dumont, Intern
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

While many people are focused on the events in Iran, Jon and Kate, and Perez Hilton (not all holding the same importance), the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a jump in the H1N1/Swine flu toll Monday.

The report said more than 7,873 cases and 51 deaths had been added since Friday, as now more than 52,000 people have been infected and 231 have died. These totals don’t count the UN health agency's official figures, indicating an even higher toll should be expected. Swine flu has now been reported in 100 countries and territories.

An extra 3,594 cases were reported in the United States, bringing its total to 21,449 with 87 deaths. Britain has been the most affected country in Europe. The addition of 754 more cases has taken its total to 2,506, including one death. Mexico still has the same total of 7,600 cases and 113 deaths.

Iran's health ministry reported the country's first virus case in a 16-year-old boy who had just visited the United States, the official IRNA news agency said.

The most alarming development in this report is that the WHO said that its figures could not be considered reliable because some countries were no longer keeping total figures while other poor countries did not have the means to reliably detect cases.

JRCSocial Science for Counterterrorism
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Monday, June 1, 2009

RAND has released “Social Science for Counterterrorism” – a robust evaluation of the leverage social science provides in understanding and explaining terrorism.  Their review models the antecedent conditions that establish a permissive environment as well as the precipitating causes that may spark actual terrorist campaigns.  The preeminent value of this study is that it goes beyond trite accounts of complexity and lays bare the need to cope with the equifinality of modern terrorism.  Social Science for Counterterrorism is an invaluable read for policy-makers and academics.

LPKBeyond the 49th Parallel
~Laura Keith, Policy Analyst
Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canadian Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan released a joint statement on US-Canada border security.  The statement announces increased cooperation between the two countries.  Among the six border-focused goals listed, one stood out: "Develop joint threat and risk assessments to assist the two countries in forming a common understanding of the threats and risks we face."

Developing a joint threat assessment will increase our understanding of how to confront more effectively threats at the border.  It will also enable Canada and the United States to jointly identify and combat a myriad of threats that might originate elsewhere.  In other words, it has the potential to push US-Canadian security from a less reactive stance to a more proactive one. 

Forward movement on joint threat assessment is consistent with an HSPI Commentary published last month, which argued that it "could be a powerful protective tool on both sides of the 49th parallel.  It need not—and should not—diminish sovereign capabilities and capacities on either side; to the contrary, it could enhance both.

LPKH1N1 Complacency
~Laura Keith, Policy Analyst
Thursday, May 21, 2009

While confirmed cases still hover at just under 6,000 as of Wednesday, May 20, 2009, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has predicted that the U.S. could have as many as 100,000 cases of H1N1.

HSPI convened a panel on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, where experts from the health and security fields underscored the continued threat H1N1 poses to the United States and the world.  Dr. Jeff Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America’s Health, stated that while we are better prepared for pandemics than we were eight years ago, there are still improvements to be made:  “we can’t fall into the trap of complacency because media is done covering it [H1N1].”

What types of things can the federal government do in response to H1N1 and for future pandemics?  The event’s featured speakers provided a range of suggestions, from improving our disease surveillance and investigation capabilities to funding our overall public health infrastructure more robustly. Find out more in the webcast of the event here.

JRCInsurgency in India
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pakistan isn’t the only nuclear armed South Asian country facing an insurgency.  Naxalite-Maoist rebels in India are growing in strength and straining India’s security apparatus.

In a country in which one in four live in poverty and political corruption is widespread; some fear the appeal of the Naxalite-Maoists is increasing.

After years of terrorizing local populations in an attempt to undermine support for the national government, insurgents have begun targeting police and security forces.

If Manmohan Singh’s new government cannot protect its citizens and address rampant poverty – the country will become ripe for a full scale insurgency.

LPKStrengthening the Afghan Government
~Laura Keith, Policy Analyst
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On Monday, The New York Times reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, may take on an even larger role in Afghanistan: Khalilzad is in talks with President Hamid Karzai to become the “CEO” of Afghanistan under Karzai’s leadership.  This would make him a de facto, unelected, part of the Afghan government.

The current government of Afghanistan has some strides to make towards fighting corruption and drug trafficking, providing services, acting as an avenue for the voice of its citizens and defeating the Taliban insurgency.  A CEO position might be useful in managing the government’s efforts; however, putting an Afghan-American who still holds U.S. citizenship into that position might undermine exactly what the government seeks—legitimacy.

JRCDangers of Transitional Democracy
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For a quick primer concerning the dangers of transitional democracy; review Mansfield and Snyder’s Democratic Transitions, Institutional Strength, and War.  The authors’ insights have important implications for US efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan – as well as the general security situation in South Asia.

JRCRethinking Non-Proliferation
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Friday, May 15, 2009

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) comes up for renewal next April.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the retiring IAEA director general, argues that the non-proliferation regime may collapse.  He contends that the recognized nuclear powers failure to disarm, as required by the treaty, has violated the treaty’s “sense of fairness and equity.” 

Non-proliferation efforts are gravely important to national security from traditional and non-traditional threats, but great thought must be given to the policies and structures employed.  Scholars and policy-makers must go beyond examinations of the current regime’s operational performance.  Given the geo-political changes that have occurred since the treaty was ratified in 1970, a review of the underlying assumptions and motivations concerning weapons proliferation are in order.

It’s doubtful that those nations that have acquired nuclear weapons in recent years were motivated by violations of fairness or equity.  It’s equally doubtful such concerns motivate terrorists’ desire to acquire and employ nuclear weapons.  The world may have moved away from the bargaining logic of Thomas Schelling’s Arms & Influence in which nuclear weapons are seen as tool for bullying others to achieve favorable outcomes.  We may now be in a world closer to Brian Jenkins’s Unconquerable Nation in which “terrorists want a lot of people watching and a lot of people dead.”

The NPT must be enhanced and renewed.  It must also be tailored to fit the challenges of the 21st century.

JRCFacebook and Iranian Elections
~Joseph Clark, Policy Analyst
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yesterday, The Financial Times reported extensive use of Facebook by the rivals of Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad in the run up to the Iranian elections.

The late American political scientist E. E. Schattschneider wrote that the “outcome of all conflict is determined by the scope of its contagion.” In political contests, the scope of contagion is a product of information flow – which is itself determined by technological resources and state control.

Iran’s upcoming elections will test the relative strength of these two elements; the results are likely to have strategic implications.

FJEIntroduction to HSPI's Blind Spots
~F. Jordan Evert, Presidential Administrative Fellow
May 2009

A blind spot is an obscured part of your visual field. The brain fills in blind spots with surrounding detail, so what you see is an artificial creation. However, humans can train themselves to view these spots with greater clarity.

In this spirit, HSPI presents Blind Spots, a running commentary that illuminates unconventional or overlooked issues of security policy. Our goal is to provide refreshing bits of analysis that strengthen our collective understanding of the critical issues we face.