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Entries in security (70)


The inevitable counter-reaction to China's aggressive behavior in Asia

The easiest call of the last half-century:  push Japan around enough and you'll get an end to its constitutionally-mandated pacifism.

Unlike Germany, which self-flagelated to the point of altering its social persona, Japan did no such thing.  It simply buried the past, which it can now dig up with enough incentives from Beijing, which seems to have counted on the notion that it could push Tokyo around indefinitely.

No, this doesn't change my attitude on the "pivot" or AirSea Battle.  In both cases, it proves how unnecessary they are as over-the-top reactions (yes, I understand the "show of force" part; I just worry that such things tend to be forgotten fairly quickly inside the Pentagon and thus today's feint equals tomorrow's "unshakeable national security interest").

The US enabled Asia's peaceful rise by playing Leviathan and thus obviating anyone's need to "arms race" with anyone else inside the region.  The result being, for the first time in history, India, China, Korea and Japan all "risen" without any wars.  

Beijing seems to have seen some historic advantage in this situation, which now disappears - inevitably.  Thus, now is NOT the time for the US to "pour it on" but to play the honest-broker all the more.


The future of social work (youth services)

Fascinating NYT story on how police precincts in NYC are moving "left of boom" (as the military says) to intervene with vulnerable youth BEFORE they even get involved with the gangs, etc.

The strategy:

The New York City Police Departmenthas embarked on a novel approach to deter juvenile robbers, essentially staging interventions and force-feeding outreach in an effort to stem a tide of robberies by dissuading those most likely to commit them.

Officers not only make repeated drop-ins at homes and schools, but they also drive up to the teenagers in the streets, shouting out friendly hellos, in front of their friends. The force’s Intelligence Division also deciphers each teenager’s street name and gang affiliation. Detectives compile a binder on each teenager that includes photos from Facebook and arrest photos of the teenager’s associates, not unlike the flow charts generated by law enforcement officials to track organized crime.

The idea, in part, is to isolate these teenagers from the peers with whom they commit crimes — to make them radioactive.

This is a form of "big data" intervention:  based on trajectories, the cops know who's highly likely to be sucked into certain activities.  Their names start appearing on police blotters - often on "both sides" (victim and perpetrator).  The cops also know where and when the activity is likely to occur.

So they just start showing up, making it clear they know you and where you're headed.

Tell me that's not just aggressive social work.  The signs are all there.  The initial indicators are piling up.  You know who, what, where, when and why.  Question is, do you just wait with this information or do you act pre-emptively?

The whole linking-the-dots thing about 9/11 has many parallels in other security domains, with obvious overlaps in medical, environmental, etc.

This is where "big data" will take governance.  

This is where we will locate the looming Progressive Era.

Same things holds on bad actors internationally.

Yes, we can resort to old labels and call it many names.  Or we can grow up and understand that we can and will do better.

Writing off vulnerable populations isn't noble.  It's merely shirking your civic/global duty.


Foreign Policy: Think Again: The Pentagon (The military's Chicken Littles want you to think the sky is falling. Don't believe them: America has never been safer.)



"The Pentagon Is Always Fighting the Last War."

Just the opposite. The Pentagon, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates derisively pointed out, has a bad case of "next-war-itis." With Iraq now ancient history and Afghanistan winding down, all four of the major U.S. military services today prefer to imagine distant, future, high-tech shoot-'em-ups against China (er, well-equipped adversaries) over dealing with the world as we find it, which is still full of those nasty little wars. As Marine Corps general and outgoing Central Command boss James Mattis once told me, "I find it intellectually embarrassing that people want to hug the Chinese [and exclaim], 'Oh, thank God we have another peer competitor at last! Now we can go back to building the weapons that we always wanted to build.'"

Read the entire article at Foreign Policy.


Nice side-by-side capture of globalization dynamics (guest post)

From Thomas Frazel of Tulane:

Heinz Sold as Deals Take Off

"We've been prospecting in the emerging world for a long time, and now they're prospecting here,"Heinz's Mr. Johnson said in an interview. "You're seeing a shrinking world and an equilibrium of wealth creation, and this kind of activity is only going to accelerate over the next five to 10 years."

In the interview, Mr. Johnson said he was surprised that firms from emerging markets would be capable of taking over America's most established companies.  "I didn't see this happening eight weeks ago, let alone five years ago," he said.

First Bud, Now Heinz, Tycoon Grabs Brands

Though Mr. Lemann is a Brazilian business icon, he moved his family to Switzerland more than a decade ago following a kidnapping attempt in Brazil, a stark reminder of persistent problems of crime in the South American nation. Mr. Lemann's family is of Swiss descent. He declined an interview request through an associate, and has denied past requests as well.

Frazel's comment:

It was too perfect to see these things side-by-side — money in the Gap, instability in the Gap.

The more sophisticated read of PENTAGON'S NEW MAP was that the Gap would experience more instability as globalization rapidly improved things.  Change destabilizes.  It's as simple as that.  

The security challenge that results more resembles small-wars than large - thus the call for the SysAdmin force. It's about seeing the world as it is - what really matters in terms of structural change, and staying true to America's several-decade effort to replicate its core dynamics on a global scale.

What did we get for our effort?  Our blood and treasure?

The best and most radically improving period in world history.

Many other powers had their versions of globalization before ours came along.  And they were all far less fair and far more bloody. Ours is hardly perfect, but much like a democratic republic, ours is the best worst version yet.

Our challenge:  China and India will be the shapers of this system in the future - more than us. That is why understanding those two powers and joining with them in co-managing this world is America's number 1 long-term foreign policy objective.

And this is why I find Obama's Asian pivot so idiotically misguided. Scratch that - too harsh. He is ideologically misguided.  He mistrusts US power and does not acknowledge the decades of effort that I cite - nor its success.

THAT America did far more good than harm, but he does see that America.

And so he does trust the future that that America made possible.


Interesting panel on Chinese navy (video)

Got this from Tom Wade, who attended the US Naval Institute's WEST 2013 in San Diego.  Been a while since I last spoke at one of those, but they are very good conferences on all things naval.

The guy to watch is the Naval War College prof Toshi Yoshihara.  Most interesting point:  Remember just how easy it could be to thwart the PLAN by placing one's own area-denial anti-access assets all along (or on) the so-called first island chain, which is owned by everybody EXCEPT China.  Per my usual point:  the balancing dynamic here is not all that hard and can be achieved through highly incentivized "others" like Japan (which grows more incentivized by the day).  America's need to turn this into the man a mano fight of the century is a bit much - for all the non-military reasons upon which I love to harp.


Time's Battleland: National Security - Just How Intelligent is the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030?


Every half-decade, the National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends” series produces a roughly 20-year predictive analysis of the world’s evolution – an analysis considered to be the best long-range geopolitical forecasting conducted by the U.S. government. These multi-year efforts involve consultations with hundreds of experts from around the world (the last two drills have featured interviews and presentations from yours truly.) The NIC also conducts global “road shows” to collect feedback for great powers like RussiaChina and various European states.

Simply stated, the biggest problem with this year’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the lack of internally consistent logic throughout each of the worlds presented.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Time's Battleland: Korea - Missile Launch Doesn’t Make NoKo’s Kim Jong-un a Dud


There’s a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Jack David saying latest North Korean missile launch proves Kim Jong-un won’t be a reformer and that — basically — anyone who still believes that is a dupe.

That’s specious logic in the worst, narrow-minded national security way.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.



Great summarizing FT article on "global food security" risk

Notice the equatorially-centric band? Remind you of another map?

Starts by calling farmers "the canaries in the mine when it comes to climate change."  Brilliant.

What affects farmers affects the global food supply and causes the price rises that hit middle class wallets and increases the risk of hunger for the world's poor.

CC isn't the "only culprit" when it comes to good security.

The primary drivers, the article notes, are population growth and the stunning growth of the global middle class, which, as we know, likes to eat and eat well.

Next is the loss of land to food crops due to urbanization and the diversion of crops to fuels (dumbest idea in human history).

But here's the quote that caught my eye:

If these were the only pressures on the global food supply, feeding the world sustainably could still be achievable, says Jerry Nelson, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).  "If you didn't have climate change, you could tell a story about how it will be challenging and how we need to invest more in productivity, reduce waste and manage international trade," he says.  "But this would be something we could accomplish.

"When you throw climate change into the mix, that makes everything a lot more difficult."

Or better said - with regard to risk - more uncertain.

Great little piece in "FT Special Report: Managing Climate Change."


Saudi America

Title of the WSJ's lead editorial on Tuesday.

Two charts displaying the tectonic shift afforded by fracking technology.

This, plus fiscal constraints, makes for a new definition of US superpower-dom.

Let the debate begin ...


US ag industry: the greatest force for stability on the planet

Pick out the world's biggest exporter of wheat from this chart.

It's the US, which is also the biggest exporter of corn, soybeans and food aid.

Guess what got devastated this year?  Corn and soybeans (where the US just lowered its forecase of yields for the 3rd time), but somehow the US pulls off a slight increase on wheat.  Problem is, everybody else is down.  From the WSJ story (which provided the chart above):

The weather troubles, if they continue [read, winter wheat], risk pushing wheat back to the fore of global concerns about soaring food prices.  Wheat is a staple food around the world and a major source of basic nutrition for the poor, and prior price spikes in recent years contributed to political unrest.

Like the doubling of bread prices in Egypt in the months leading up to Mubarak's fall.

I say this in presentations all the time: the biggest force for global stability right now is the U.S. farmer.


The amazing - and continuing - drop in crime in US

Economist story about how "big city" PDs around US using Compstat (a data management system that allows crime stats to be worked in-depth for deeper understanding and response patterns) and how most cops feel like it's been a huge tool in the plummenting of crime rates across the US for the past 20 years - a trend that is absolutely amazing.

Yes, I know some think "three strikes and you're out" accomplished much, but many professionals say the key is big data, effectively wielded through better policing tactics.

Other theories abound, but to me, this is a sign of what happens when big data is worked: the whole complexity-out-of-control meme just isn't true.  The growth of networks is fundamentally freeing - not enslaving, and it offers more control over environments - not less.

Point being, if you believe that America is avatar of modern globalization, this is proof that growing connections and technology handles growing complexity much better than we - in our enduring fears - imagine.

Orwell continues to be one of the most stunningly incorrect futurists, but this is the plight of all dystopians.


Time's Battleland: (CYBER) Cyber Warfare Treaty: DOA, Thanks to President and Pentagon

Misha Glenny making a smart case in the New York Times for a cyber arms control treaty, but it won’t happen.


For the same reason why the U.S. has refused – for many years now – to engage other great powers on a treaty banning space weaponry: our Pentagon wants to dominate that imagine conflict space like any other. This fantasy lives on despite the great private-sector forays into space transport and travel.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Wikistrat post @ CNN/GPS: 10 strategic issues with Obama's East Asia "pivot"


Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

The Obama Administration recently released a military strategic guidance document, which calls for a strategic “pivot” from the Middle East to East Asia. This bold move replaces President George W. Bush’s “long war” against violent Islamic extremism with a new, ongoing effort to shape China’s military rise.

What are the strategic, military trade-offs of this historic shift? Wikistrat, the world’s first massively multiplayer online consultancy, recently tapped its global network of several hundred analysts to ponder this question. This online network offers a uniquely powerful and unprecedented strategic consulting service: the Internet's only central intelligence exchange for strategic analysis and forecasting, delivered - for the first time - in a real-time, interactive platform. Exclusive to GPS, here are Wikistrat’s top ten strategic, military issues to bear in mind as this “pivot” unfolds:

Read the entire post at CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS site.


Time's Battleland: The "strategic pivot" to Asia now committed, Pentagon can float allegedly deep cuts

Nice piece in the NYT today previewing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's much-anticipated announcement of almost a half-trillion in defense cuts over the next decade.As Mark Thompson just noted, not a whole lot of details.  We are told that the US military will no longer plan to fight two wars simultaneously - long a preferred fantasy.  Now, it will be able to fight one big war (guess who that is), plus be able to spoil another's attempted dirty deeds (let's say Iran's counter to Israel's attack on its nuclear facilities).

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


WPR's The New Rules: Obama Must Avoid the 'China Threat' Trap

No credible international affairs specialist would contend that the 2012 presidential election will hinge on U.S. foreign policy, given the state of the U.S. economy and the widespread social anger that one sees bubbling up across the country. What's more, Americans -- if not Beltway partisan pundits -- have achieved a certain sense of consensus on foreign policy under President Barack Obama, whose leadership has displayed a palpable "give them what they want" dynamic that reflects his desire to keep overseas issues on the back burner while he focuses on domestic ones.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Wikistrat's "The World According to Tom Barnett" 2011 brief, Part 6 (Flow of Security)

In this section I cover the symmetricization of the Long War, nuclear proliferation (and the lack thereof), how America shaped this world with its grand strategy, and who the key superpowers will be in the post-2030 landscape.


WPR's The New Rules: A Look Ahead at the Geography of Global Security

As part of a “big think” forecast project commissioned by an intelligence community sponsor, I’ve begun to think about the future geography of global security. As often with this kind of project, I find myself falling into list-making mode as I contemplate slides for the brief. So here are nine big structural issues that I think any such presentation must include . . .

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Esquire's Politics Blog: 5 Post-Qaddafi Realities for Libya and the Rest of Us

They came to bury Muammar Qaddafi, not capture him. After more than four decades of rule, he was still in the business of threatening and killing Libyans — a kind of start-up insurgency that would never go away. So if Qaddafi is indeed dead, then so much the better; the great bogeyman has been removed from the scene. Of course the world will (temporarily at least) lament the violence required for his departure from power, but as dictator-toppling exercises go, this one was about as good as it gets: First, the Arab Spring's power of example, then the rebels-turned-ruling-military-force driving him out from below, and finally an enabling from the human rights-minded powers that be.

But still: How did we really get here? And, perhaps more importantly, what now?

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.


Quoted in Reuters piece on Cyprus gas dispute

Here are excerpts with my bits (find the story here):

ANALYSIS-Turkey-Cyprus spat a sign of conflicts to come?

06 Oct 2011 08:54

Source: Reuters // Reuters 

By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent

LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - With an emerging power testing its strength, valuable resources in the balance and a weakened West struggling to exert influence, the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over gas drilling may be a sign of wider things to come . . . 

In Southeast Asia, the Arctic, and perhaps also Africa and Latin America, disputed maritime boundaries may become flashpoints as rising scarcity of energy and other resources coincide with a shift in the geopolitical balance of power.

The United States and other Western powers,their relative influence waning, may have to play a subtle diplomatic game to ensure conflict is avoided and important relationships are not jeopardised.

"What we're seeing here is theatrics," says Thomas Barnett, US-based chief strategist for political risk consultancy Wikistrat. "The trick here is to manage it" . . . .

Beijing has been involved in a growing number of face-offs with neighbours in recent years over mineral and fishing rights, most recently Vietnam. Outside analysts say these are often originally spurred as much by private actors -- fishing boats or exploration vessels -- as deliberate policy, but again offer a podium on which Beijing can showcase its growing clout.

Other areas to watch, analysts say, might include Russia's growing assertiveness in the Arctic and perhaps Argentinian interest in the British-controlled Falklands, particularly in the event of energy discoveries there. Increased energy discoveries of Africa's coastline could also spark disputes.

But fears of a new era of "resource wars", Wikistrat's Barnett says, might still be overblown.

In the long run, he said a more assertive Turkey could prove a positive for both the U.S. and Israel, acting as a regional counterweight to Iran and Saudi Arabia, and that the important thing was to manage its rise.

"My instinct is that this is a storm in a tea cup," Barnett says of the Cyprus dispute. "You could make comparisons from this to what we are seeing in the South China Sea (and) in both cases the ultimate answer is probably the same -- some kind of shared corporation agreement... It might sound a long way off now, but it should happen with time."

The need for the West, he said, was to learn to reach out subtly and diplomatically to emerging powers like Turkey as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did with China in the 1970s, soothing egos and helping nudge them towards co-operation.

Not everyone is so confident outright bloodshed will always be avoided . . . 

Yes, I did have some problem with the formulation Apps made on that last line.  I said  thing, but he was working the tension in the piece (sigh!), so you live with that journalistic trick, realizing that this is my legitimate niche anyway - the anti-alarmist.

So the tone of the quotes was good for both me and Wikistraat:  we want to be associated with wide-angle perspectives that emphasize strategizing. Toward that end, we've designed a number of simulations on this story at Wikistrat, to include ones that explore Turkey walking from the EU over this, oil drig shootouts (if Turkey truly wants a bloody shirt to wave like the "aid flotilla" fiasco), a downstream linkage to the nuclearization of the Eastern Med, and ultimately how all this natural resource wealth impacts regional economic development.

I'll have more on this subject in Monday's column. Apps' piece got me thinking . . ..


Time's Battleland: Global arms exports track global economy's double dip

Couldn't afford the upkeep, so it's yours now, kid!

It's interesting to think back to the start of the global economic crisis, when there were a lot of assumptions voiced about how a rising quotient of international tension would inevitably morph into more conflicts and thus more traditionally focused defense spending – i.e., great powers hedging against one another versus, say, non-state actors or state failure. If we were on the verge of the second Great Depression, then certainly we'd find ourselves in a 1930s-like march toward significant great-power struggles, yes? With the Arab Spring providing the tinder for a great-power free-for-all?

So what have we found so far?  

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.