Posts tagged ‘nation building’

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Tensions Grow on Ukraine-Russia Border; Moscow Eyes Svalbard Presence in Hybrid-Strategy

UKRAINE:

Biden Reassures Ukrainian President.

President Joe Biden has reassured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, as the country steels itself for a potential Russian invasion on its eastern frontier.

According to a White House readout of the December 9 call, “President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further military intervention.”

Biden also told Zelenskyy that the United States and its allies were “committed to the principle of ‘no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine,’” reiterating his calls for Russia to de-escalate tensions and choose diplomacy, POLITICO reported.

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(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Seeking Help from Parners, Allies.

Biden also held a separate call December 9 with the Bucharest Nine,” a group of NATO members on Europe’s eastern edge close to Russia — including the Baltics and Poland — that are particularly sensitive to aggressive moves by Moscow, the Washington Post reported.

Thursday’s conversations took place roughly 48 hours after Biden spoke on a two-hour video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he warned the Kremlin leader that severe economic consequences would follow if he once again decides to invade neighboring Ukraine.
During their call, Biden and Putin agreed that their teams would arrange talks on what the Kremlin calls sensitive European security issues, including Putin’s complaints about NATO activities in and around Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. The Kremlin has denied any plans to invade, accusing Washington of fueling a war scare.
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U.S. Not Sending Troops
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. support for Ukraine against a worrisome buildup of Russian forces will not include additional U.S. troops, at least for now.

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters December 8 at the White House. “The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now,” Defense One repored. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not enjoy the collective protection of Article 5, which calls every alliance member to arms when one is attacked. Ukraine seeks to join NATO but Russia opposes its entry into the alliance.

In an exclusive interview for Defense One’s Outlook 2022, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden emphasized in his phone call with Putin that if Russia moves against Ukraine, the United States would levy economic consequences; provide more military gear to Kiev; and deploy an “increased U.S. troop presence and increased capabilities in countries like Poland, the Baltics, [and] Romania.”

But Sullivan reiterated that the U.S. does not intend to send more troops to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the final elements of a $60 million security systems package to Ukraine — initially announced in August — will ship this week, a Pentagon spokesman said December 9.

U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, cut through barbed wire during the Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine, July 2, 2021. The multinational maritime exercise cohosted by U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea since 1997, is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security and peace in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that the last portions of the existing security package, which includes small arms and ammunition, is shipping now. Other parts of that security assistance package, meant to help Ukrainians defend their sovereignty against Russian aggression, included the Javelin missile system, which is already in the hands of Ukrainian servicemembers.

The $60 million package previously included 30 Javelin Command Launch Units and 180 missiles. The Javelins were delivered to Ukraine on October 23. “The United States has committed more than $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine in 2021, and this is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth, a Defense Department  spokesman said in an email to reporters.

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Putin’s No-Ukraine-in-NATO Demand.

On December 1, Vladimir Putin demanded ‘‘legal guarantees’’ that NATO would never expand eastward, ratcheting up the stakes as the West scrambled to respond to Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Putin, who sees Ukraine’s deepening military partnership with the United States and other NATO countries as an existential threat, wants to start talks with the West to reach an agreement that would block the alliance’s expansion. He spoke in the midst of what Western officials describe as a growing threat of military action by tens of thousands of Russian troops massing close to the border with Ukraine — a former Soviet nation that seeks to join NATO.

‘‘The threat on our western borders is, indeed, rising, as we have said multiple times,’’ Putin said at a ceremony for ambassadors at the Kremlin December, according to the Times. ‘‘In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.’’

Putin’s demand is a nonstarter for NATO. ‘‘It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO,’’ Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general told reporters in Riga, Latvia. ‘‘Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.’’

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ARCTIC:

From the Barents Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea

An expert on Polar geopolitics warns that Russia to enhance its presence in Svalbard, a Norwegian-controlled archipelago in the Arctic, the Independent Barents Observer reports.

In an interview with the Norwegian-based Arctic news site, Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan, says “a hybrid-strategy is underway in which Russia bolsters its legitimate presence in Svalbard on one hand while raising tensions in the maritime space on the other hand.” A lecturer in strategic studies at Australia’s Deakin University, says Moscow “isn’t about to annex Svalbard, Russia doesn’t want such a fight.”

Instead, she says Russia will try to assert its rights under a 1920 Treaty that gave Norway sovereignty over the islands, but Russia coal limited mining and other economic and scientific rights.

In recent years, the islands have risen in strategic importance as they reside just north of the intersection of the Barents, Greenland and Norwegian seas (see map above) . Whomever controls Svalbard is also likely to control the important gateway from the shallow Barents Sea to the deeper North Atlantic. For Russia’s Northern Fleet, the so-called Bear Island Gap between mainland Norway and the archipelago’s southernmost island is key to conducting sea denial operations in and over the maritime areas further south, potentially threatening NATO’s transatlantic sea lines of communication, according to the Observer.

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BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations like Poland and Romania border against Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Scandinavian countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

December 10, 2021 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Is Populism Out? Conservatism In?

Marching to the Right?

South America map courtesy of Nations Online Project

South America map courtesy of Nations Online Project

Is populism on the wane in Latin America’s larger economies?

On Thursday (December 9), Argentina’s new business-friendly conservative President Maurico Macri took office after 12 years of left wing government.

Voters recently dealt an electoral blow to the populist legacy of the late Hugo Chavez and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela — electing an opposition majority to the National Assembly.

Meanwhile lawmakers in Brazil are trying to impeach another populist, President Dilma Rousseff, who is is grappling with a severe economic downturn and a massive corruption scandal in her Workers Party government.

But bad news for leftists is good news to foreign investors, according to Bloomberg News (via the Tico Times).

Venezuelan bonds climbed after the opposition won a majority in Congress for the first time in 16 years, Bloomberg reported, adding that the Global X MSCI Argentina exchange-traded fund has seen asses under management climb since polls showed Macri was likely o win the presidency. Investors have also piled into the biggest Brazil stock, ET< since impeachment proceedings against Rousseff were initiated, the business news site said.

The Venezuelan elections could also have significant consequences for Russian oil development contracts and a slowdown of arms sales to Venezuela, according to RBC Daily (via Russia Beyond the Headlines).

Today Venezuela is Russia’s second largest American trading partner after Brazil. Trade relations between the two countries is largely focused on oil and defense. Russia’s state oil enterprise Rosneft is collaborating on five joint oil production projects in Venezuela, including developing oil deposits in the Orinoco River Valley, according to RBC.

Russia has supplied much of Venezuela’s military weaponry including Su-30 fighter jets, T-72 tanks and Grad multiple rocket launchers, according to RBC.

While Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicola Maduro, remains president, his party’s capability to influence decisions has been significantly reduced, RBC said. The assembly voting is the worst-ever defeat for the leftist movement founded by Chavez in 1999, according to the BBC.

Argentina’s economy isstuck in a prolonged slowdown and facing a recession next year, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts. But Macri’s room to maneuver will be limited by Congress, where the coalition loyal to his predecessor Cristina Kirchner and her husband Nestor — also a former president — will be the largest party in the lower house and have an absolute majority in the Senate, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended impeachment proceedings against Rousseff until it rules on a secret vote that apparently stacked a congressional committee with opponents trying to oust her, according to The Independent website.

 

December 10, 2015 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: The First “Official” Thanksgiving, In the Midst of War

Lincoln’s Proclamation.

Mr. LincolnIf you’re reading this, you’re probably stuffed after a meal of turkey with all the trimmings. You’re also probably done with watching football, The Godfather or X-Men. Maybe you’ve read or heard some of the annual Thanksgiving Day news pieces about the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts or the equally ubiquitous stories about what they really ate at that first thanksgiving meal and who was or wasn’t there or how President Franklin Roosevelt was persuaded to move the holiday up a week in 1939 to extend the Christmas shopping season — and bolster the economic recovery from the Great Depression

But here at 4GWAR, we’re mindful that the first official national day of Thanksgiving came in the midst of a terrible Civil War that had cost thousands of lives and was still far from over. It seems strange remarkable (what I shouldda wrote) to think President Abraham Lincoln decided the country needed to pause and consider what it did have to be thankful for despite all the carnage.

Well here is what Mr. Lincoln had to say about all that more than 150 years ago.

 

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

To read more about the story of Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation, click here or here or here, where Lincoln issued a second Thanksgiving proclamation a year later — while the war still raged.

Thanksgiving Day 1863 as envisioned in Harper's Weekly.

Thanksgiving Day 1863 as envisioned in Harper’s Weekly.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

November 26, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: [UPDATED 11/25/2015] Refugee Crisis; Winning Over Muslim Immigrants; Water Woes Behind Mass Migrations

Food for Thought: Double Trouble.

Food for ThoughtNews that some of the gunmen and suicide bombers in the Friday the 13th Paris attacks were European nationals have politicians and governments on both sides of the Atlantic fretting and fulminating.

They’re worried that terrorists may be hiding among the refugees swarming into Europe — like one of the attackers in Paris who killed 129 people. They also fear that refugees from Muslim countries like Syria and Iraq — even if they’re fleeting terrorism — may become radicalized by anti-Western propaganda and turn into Islamist terrorists themselves.

In the United States, the governors of more than half the states say thousands of Syrian refugees President Barack Obama wants to bring to America are not welcome. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed to enter the country as refugees next year, according to CNN.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees leave a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Photo by Ggia via wikipedia)

Syrian and Iraqi refugees leave a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.
(Photo by Ggia via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, some countries in Europe, which has been swamped this year by more than 700,000  political and economic refugees from the Middle East and Africa, say they won’t take in any more people. According to Reuters, 1,500 migrants remain trapped in northern Greece unable to cross the border into Macedonia after other countries in the Balkans began limiting their intake to Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Meanwhile, Poland cited the Paris attacks as the reason for not taking in 4,500 Syrian refugees as part of a European Union plan to spread the immigration burden, Britain’s Daily Mail reported. Instead, Poland’s new foreign minister suggested turning the refugees into an army to fight and “liberate their country with our help.”

Here at 4GWAR, we don’t have all the answers to these expanding problems, but we offer two pieces of research that could help point the way to a solution.

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Winning Muslims’ Trust.

You know the old saying “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”? Well, some academic researchers say their work shows harsh rhetoric and cold shoulders can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States — and that can lead to radicalization.

“Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, and in partnership with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it,” say in an article on “The Conversation” website via the Washington Post.

Lyons-Padilla, a research scientist at Stanford University’s Stanford SPARQ and Gelfand, a professor and Distinguished University Scholar Teacher at the University of Maryland, asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the United States to tell them about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities — including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. “We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.”

Because you can’t pre-interview a potential terrorist, they measured two indicators of support for radicalism.

“We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. (For example, they asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad.) “Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it.” This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the United States or Germany upset about how they were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.

“Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views,” the researchers wrote. But the responses of some interviewees  showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country — in effect they were “culturally homeless.”

“The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism,” the researchers said. “Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives.” Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened, they wrote.

The researchers add: “For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.”

The research results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. “Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it,” the authors said. To read the full article, click here.

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Water Woes.

Beyond conflict, there is another contributing factor to the waves of refugee flooding Europe: water scarcity, according to a world renowned environment and development research organization.

Water Stress in Syria and Middle East. (World Research Institute map)

Water Stress in Syria and Middle East.
(World Resources Institute map)

“A well-documented path can connect water scarcity to food insecurity, social instability and potentially violent conflict,’ say researchers at the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.”As climate change amplifies scarcity worries, more secure water supplies could help the lives of millions in conflict zones,” say WRI’s , and

They say drought and water shortages in Syria are likely to have contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s civil war — now in its fourth year. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people — primarily farmers and herders — to lose their livelihoods and leave their land. The farmers then moved to urban areas, magnifying Syria’s general destabilization.

The unstable conditions are likely to deteriorate in coming decades. Syria is projected to be among the 11 most water-stressed countries in the world by 2040. And it’s not alone in the region. Fourteen of the 33 likely most water-stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East. Water stress is an underlying conflict multiplier that will not go away, the trio of researchers say.

Food prices and other food-supply disruptions are caused by a complex series of factors, including the global food trade and government subsidies. But local water stress can make the situation worse over the long term, the WRI researchers says. Part of the reason Middle Eastern countries had to import so much food is that water is relatively inaccessible compared to other food-growing regions, they added.

To read the entire article, including possible solutions to water stress, click here.

 

November 25, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Elections in Tanzania, Zanzibar, Ivory Coast;

Tanzania Vote Disputed.

Tanzania (CIA World Factbook)

Tanzania
(CIA World Factbook)

Voters went to the polls in Tanzania Sunday (October 25) to pick a president and members of Parliament for the east African nation.

But the main opposition candidate, Edward Lowassa, has rejected the election results — citing alleged fraud, according to the Voice of America website.

For the first time since the country’s independence in 1961, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) — the longest serving political party in Africa — faced a formidable threat from a coalition of four main opposition parties dubbed Ukawa (Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi, which means Coalition for the People’s Constitution).

Lowassa told reporters Wednesday (October 28) in the capital, Dar es Salaam, that results from the opposition coalition’s tallying unit showed the opposition was leading the vote count before police raided the unit Monday (October 26), the VoA reported.

The opposition Chadema party, part of the coalition, said police detained 40 of its volunteers who were tallying results. The police commissioner said the arrests were based on “violations of electoral procedures.”

Ethnic tensions over elections are virtually unheard of in the country of more than 100 ethnic groups, according to the BBC.

The incumbent, Jakaya Kikwete, has served the maximum two terms and is not seeking re-election. Over the past decade, a series of high-level corruption scandals have tainted the government and seen a reduction in financial assistance to the country, one of Africa’s largest aid recipients, the BBC said.

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Zanzibar Vote Voided.

Meanwhile, officials in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago have annulled the vote, sparking tension on the islands and raising questions about the national presidential result, according to Al Jazeera.

Zanzibar’s electoral commission said Wednesday (October 28) that elections on the Indian Ocean islands – where the 500,000 registered electorate had also voted on Sunday for Tanzania’s national president – must be carried out again, citing “violations of electoral law”.

“The process was not fair and had breaches of the law … I declare all the results to be null and void,” Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha said, reporting alleged violations including double-voting and cheating.

The annulment is likely to delay the announcement of full national results. Counting continued for a third day on Wednesday (October 28), with the ruling party presidential candidate in the lead.

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Ivory Coast Landslide.

Ivory Coast map. CIA World Factbook

Ivory Coast map.
CIA World Factbook

And in west Africa, the president of Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Alassane Ouattara has won a second term in office. He received 83 percent of votes Sunday (October 28),according to official results announced overnight.

Ouattara won a landslide victory. Second place candidate,  ex-Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, got just 9 percent of the vote, according to VoA.

More than 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2010 and 2011 when incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.
Internationally accepted results showed Ouattara had won the November 2010 election.

Gbagbo was removed from office after French troops and United Nations peacekeepers intervened in the crisis. He is now awaiting trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity. Ivory Coast is a former French colony and still has French troops stationed there.

October 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

DEFENSE/PEACEKEEPING: Big Week Coming

Two Big Conferences.

Calendar14GWAR was lying low last week after a busy conference season — Air & Space — Modern Day Marine — Military Reporters and Editors and one of the biggest, the Association of the U.S. Army.

But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.

It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

For more information, click here.

ISOA SUMMIT

The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).

ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”

We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.

Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.

October 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (August 21, 2015)

Rugged Country.

Defense Dept. photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs

Defense Dept. photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs

U.S. Army Sergeant Major Jody Volz, adviser for Train, Advise and Assist Command South in Afghanistan, flies over Kandahar, Afghanistan in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter,  with Afghan National Army (ANA) and TAAC-S leaders to gain situational awareness and a shared understanding of key terrain in the area.

The ANA is responsible for security in Afghanistan and works closely with coalition partners from TAAC-S, a part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. Resolute Support took over from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) when NATO’s combat role in Afghanistan ended last December.

Click on the photo to get a better look at this forbidding terrain. To see more photos from this mission, click here.

August 21, 2015 at 9:09 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 29. 2015)

Keep it Simple … etc.

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal. Paul S. Martinez)

Sometimes, even in this digital world we live in, it’s easier to use some old fashioned tools like this rope line.

This week’s FRIFO shows Marine Corps Lance Corporal Maximilian Roth crossing a gorge on a rope during his final Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at the Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. Roth is a rifleman assigned to Alpha Company, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force.

May 29, 2015 at 3:02 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: April 9, 1865, Lee Surrenders to Grant [UPDATE]

Appomattox Court House.

"The Surrender" by Keith Rocco shows the known officers that were present for at least a portion of the meeting in the McLean Parlor, April 9, 1865. Photo National Park Service)

“The Surrender” by Keith Rocco shows the known officers that were present for at least a portion of the meeting in the McLean Parlor, April 9, 1865.
(Photo: National Park Service)

On this day 150 years ago, the battered Army of Northern Virginia was surrendered by its commander, Robert E. Lee, to the overall commander of the Union armies, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant.

Much has been said about those men and the way they conducted themselves that day after four years of brutal and bitter conflict. Lee, all correct in a dress uniform and sword, Grant, muddy from the ride from his headquarters to the village of Appomattox Court House and the home of Wilmer McLean where the last negotiations took place before the surrender documents were signed. You can read more detailed accounts about it here and here and here.

There was a commemoration by re-enactors today (April 9) at the historic site, you can see a photo slide show here.

While most Americans (and Hollywood script writers) believe Lee’s surrender ended the war. Sadly, it did not. The guns wouldn’t be silenced everywhere for more than a month. A larger Confederate army, commanded by General Joseph E.  Johnston surrendered to Major General William T.  Sherman in North Carolina on April 26.

The last land battle would take place along the Rio Grande in south Texas on May 12-13 and, ironically, the Confederates won the engagement.  In the final hours of the battle, a Union private from Indiana, John J. Williams, was shot fatally and he is considered the last man killed in the war.

Union soldiers at the courthouse in April 1865 (Photo by Timothy O'Sullivan via wikipedia)

Union soldiers at the courthouse in April 1865
(Photo by Timothy O’Sullivan via wikipedia)

But historians note there is an important element to Lee’s surrender. He issued General Order No. 9, which instructed his troops to lay down their arms, return to their homes and — in effect — discouraged them from taking to the hills to mount a guerrilla campaign against the government in Washington.

As a long-time Civil War buff, your 4GWAR editor is embarrassed that we almost let this significant event slip by without marking the occasion. We were a small boy when the Civil War Centennial began in 1960. The last surviving Civil War veteran, a Confederate, had died just a year earlier. We had a new president and the civil rights movement’s attempts to right the lingering wrongs of the post Civil War South were starting to make the evening news. The hundredth anniversary was marked by hundreds of books and magazine articles. There also was a weekly comic strip in the Sunday papers, Civil War trading cards (like baseball cards), a short-lived television show and no end to Civil War-related toys and blue and gray faux kepis (to replace the faux coonskin hats of the previous decade.) It made a lasing impression on us.

We fell for this comic book ad back in the 1960s. The box hem came in was about the size of this photo.

We fell for this comic book ad back in the 1960s. The box they came in was just a little bigger than the size of this photo.

UPDATE: Adds historic photo, clarifies Lee’s Order No. 9 and adds background on Civil War Centennial nostalgia.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

 

April 9, 2015 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Understanding the Islamic State Threat

Fighting a Radical Tide on Social Media.

Islamic State insurgents in Iraq's Anbar Province in 2014. (Wikipedia)

Islamic State insurgents in Iraq’s Anbar Province in 2014.
(Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — You’ve seen them on TV or the Internet: faces masked, waving black flags and AK-47s , videotaping heinous acts of barbarism against soldiers and civilians that fall into their hands. They call themselves the Islamic State.

But what is the United States and its allies to do about the growing number of people from around the world — the CIA estimates 10,000 — flocking to Iraq and Syria, pledging allegiance to this self-styled caliphate, a terrorist group so vicious its parent organization, al Qaeda, disowned them?

Two professors at the National War College tackled that and other questions Monday (April 6) in a briefing at the National Press Club sponsored by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative.

Dr. Richard Andres said the group has been very successful using social media to recruit new members and raise money. Despite the disturbing images of beheadings and other violence that IS has spread across the Internet, despite the knowledge that Islamic State practices severe Sharia law that calls for stoning, flogging and mutilating wrongdoers, hundreds of mostly young people are leaving their homes in Europe, the Americas, North Africa and Asia to join IS and risk their lives in a war zone. The group is also called ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) by the U.S. government and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) by others.

Andres, professor of National Security Strategy at the War College, says social media takes advantage of two psychological quirks: People are attracted to the sensational, whether it be lurid gossip or disturbing images, and will click on a webpage to see it. People are also “attracted to things that confirm our existing biases,” Andres said, so the politically unsophisticated or economically frustrated are drawn in to view more and more outrageous information.Soon they’re hearing just one side of the story and straying farther and farther from mainstream cultural attitudes. This is especially true in undemocratic regimes where the government controls the media. If you can’t trust mainstream media in your country, Andres said, you’re going to be drawn toward more radical information. The message IS sends of fighting repression and exploitation by the West “resonates with young people,” playing on their desire to initiate change and fight injustice.

Dr. Omer Taspinar said most of Islamic State’s new recruits are believed to come — not from the poor and downtrodden of Middle Eastern slums — but from middle and working class immigrant families in Britain, Germany, Italy, France and other European countries. While these radicalized young Muslims are often educated and have grown up in democratic societies, social and economic inequality still play a role in what Taspinar called “relative deprivation.” Dissatisfaction grows with unmet aspirations and expectations of a good job, family and a better life until, in some cases, it becomes unbearable. “It’s about the gap between opportunities and expectations,” he added.

This frustration leads to a feeling of alienation. “They become rebels looking for a cause,” and that makes them susceptible to radical propaganda on social media, said Taspinar, whose expertise includes political economy and Europe, the Middle East and Turkey. Both he and Andres stressed they were expressing their own views and not those of the National War College or the U.S. government.

Islamic State's territories in Syria and Iraq. CLICK TO ENLARGE (Map from the Institute for the Study of War)

Islamic State’s territories in Syria and Iraq. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(Map from the Institute for the Study of War)

Here at the 4GWAR Blog we’ve written often about the Department of Homeland Security’s concerns that American citizens who have been radicalized and served with Islamic State’s insurgencies in Syria and Iraq may return home with dangerous military skills that could be used for terrorist attacks.

Andres said the United States needs to get better at countering radical propaganda on the Web, not an easy task in a country where free speech is enshrined in the Constitution and spying on citizens is unlawful and unpopular. Unlike Russia and China, “the U.S. can’t stop people from saying what they want online,” he added. While the U.S. State Department has a small, underfunded program to challenge radical Islamist propaganda “it’s only a drop in the bucket,” Andres said.

“Not all radicals become terrorists,” Taspinar said, adding that the United States should do what it can at home and abroad to encourage tolerance. He suggested that helping autocratic regimes in the Middle East sends the wrong message to disaffected Muslim youth. Countries with good governance and rule of law can “afford” to be tolerant, he said but “once you lose your sense of security and are threatened by many enemies, you lose your sense of tolerance.” Taspinar noted that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “the U.S. lost its sense of security. It feels much more vulnerable and it became much harder to be a Muslim in America after 9/11.”

April 6, 2015 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

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