Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homegrown al-Qaeda

A really fascinating study was released by the Henry Jackson Society that examines the profile of al-Qaeda related offenders charged and convicted in the United States. The study, Al-Qaeda in the United States, by Robin Simcox and Emily Dyer, concludes that the majority of al-Qaeda offenses against the United States originated from the United States. The sample set only looks at U.S. charged and convicted, so I do not think it is entirely representative of all terrorists associated with al-Qaeda. The study, makes a point of clarifying the sample set and distinguishing between what it defines as al-Qaeda related and what other studies have loosely defined as either terrorist or al-Qaeda affiliated. One of the things that strikes me about the study, is that the profile of an al-Qaeda related individual is not exactly the profile one might think. This study points out that they are well educated, relatively young, in many cases converts to Islam, and most, interestingly, are U.S. born.

Another thing that strikes me as interesting is that the institution of law works in some fashion to address security threats. This certainly draws further attention on the legal ramifications of international drone strikes against terrorist subjects without due process. The subjects of this study were charged and/or convicted in U.S. courts, indicating at least some legitimacy and effectiveness of the institution of law. Recognizing that so-called terrorists are being convicted in the U.S. court system raises questions about a national security strategy that potentially supersedes domestic and international laws by categorizing threats under a different legal framework.

Furthermore, the study raises questions about perceived threats and real threats. The perceived threat is that terrorists, in this study's case al-Qaeda related terrorists, exist in some impoverished, lawless land, and are perpetrated by individuals with little to no access to modernity. While, there is an element of the terrorist threat dynamic that includes those areas and those individuals, this study suggests that perception is a myth. The account of direct threats to the U.S. homeland may actually be otherwise, hence we should be prudent about where we turn our attention and to whom.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Drones, Foreign Policy, and Operational Art.

The folks over at Small Wars Journal ran a recent article of mine dealing with operational art in World War II. It goes along with a previous post I made here a few weeks ago about operational art. The article does not have too much to do with international relations; however, I think there is an interesting shift occurring with regard to realism ideals of self-preservation and the means to preserve one's self. Specifically, I am referring to the recent debates and actions related to drone warfare. My initial thoughts on the subject force me to think about the rule of law and the manner in which the U.S. is choosing to uphold the idea of rule-of-law. The right to due process, which is a cornerstone of our legal system, seems stretched when we prosecute subjects under the guise of terrorism. While I have not researched legal precedent for this sort of withholding of due process, I think there are historical cases of a similar nature - I just cannot recall what they are. I would need to crack open the law books briefly. Nevertheless, the legal arguments for and against remind me of the ongoing legal arguments for and against detainees held in suspect of terrorist activity, namely those at Guantanamo. The legal precedent for due process, in those cases has already been established warranting,  I think, a much more comprehensive debate about what constitutes terrorist activity, to what extent are extremist ideals (those counter to our paradigmatic norm) criminal or an act of war, and under which legal framework to we afford potential suspects rights? Even in war, enemies have rights. Therefore, although the Small Wars article deals mostly with the structure of warfare objectives, I wonder if today, operational art might entail a further blending of foreign policy objectives with military means.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Pentagon’s New Map: Misinterpreting Disconnectedness is Dangerous – A Guest Post by Andrew Rohrer

I have the unique opportunity to share a really interesting essay by Andrew Rohrer. He has taken a thoughtful and critical look at Thomas Barnett's "The Pentagon's New Map," which was quite influential to military planners and strategist after its publication in 2005. Andrew provides a thoughtful analysis of a few of Barnett's central themes, namely the need for the U.S. to pursue an aggressive foreign policy strategy to maintain U.S. primacy in global security through the use of military force. Arguably, Barnett's views influenced the strategic and operational thinking of senior military leaders to include Bush administration officials prior to a critical re-consideration of U.S. geo-strategic and military aims in Iraq, and Afghanistan in particular, and the war on terror in general. We have since seen an adjustment from a hard power pursuit of shaping a global liberal democratic environment to a more balanced one of "smart power." Andrew is a U.S. Army officer involved in the development of Army strategy and a graduate of the Basic Strategic Art Program at the U.S. Army War College. These insightful thoughts are his and do not represent the broader views of either the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.

The Pentagon’s New Map: Misinterpreting Disconnectedness is Dangerous by Andrew Rohrer

During the Cold War the United States faced a well-defined competitor, the Soviet Union, inside of a well-defined world order. With nearly every nation of the world organized into two spheres of influence, the United States led one sphere in a strategy of containing the ideological and existential threat posed by the Soviets. Utilizing diplomacy to “formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of the sort of world we would like to see,” the United States led an alliance of interested nations to contain the Communist states led by the Soviet Union.[1] Though the Cold War was prone to spasms of conflict on its periphery, both sides pursued the use of non-violent political discourse as opposed to open warfare that could tip an unstable regime of deterrence into complete nuclear ruin.

With the end of the Cold War, a significant discussion both academic and political, focused on not only how to restructure the American foreign policy apparatus, but also what to restructure it address. The al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent wars and stabilization operations in Afghanistan and Iraq added urgency to the discussion. The international order was now understood to be quite different from the one of the Cold War­—there no longer existed neatly ordered competitive spheres, and concern about violent non-state actors began to rise. In this milieu, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a political scientist and Soviet expert, wrote a short article in 2003 to propose a theory for how the United States should address the new international order—“disconnectedness equals danger.”[2] In other words, the places in the world to which globalization does not reach become the incubators of movements and groups that threaten the globalizing states. He posited that the international order had shifted from the two spheres of influence, marked by ideology, into two categories of states–the Core and the Non-Integrating Gap, or simply the Gap.[3] Respectively, the states placed in each category were those that were connected to the growing globalized economy and those that were not.