Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

10
Jun

How Dangerous Is a Terrorist with a Twitter Handle? There’s an effort afoot in Congress to kick terrorists off Twitter. But the government’s spies aren’t so sure.

BY JONATHAN SCHANZER

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Sensational reports in the Guardian and Washington Post recently blew the lid off of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) electronic surveillance efforts, which have harvested everything from phone calls to Facebook posts for intelligence purposes.

Curiously, Twitter still appears outside the grasp of the NSA’s PRISM program, which gathers information from major U.S. Internet companies. But a group of lawmakers are concerned that the popular microblogging service has become too hospitable an environment for terrorist groups. The platform hosts a number of official feeds for terrorist groups, including Somalia’s al-Shabab, the North African al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra, the Taliban, and Hamas.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), who currently serves as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, is looking to curtail terrorist activity on Twitter. Poe is mindful of free speech concerns, but believes terrorist organizations are not entitled to the same free speech protections. As he argued last year, after watching Hamas use the platform for propaganda purposes during its November war with Israel, Twitter must recognize sooner rather than later that social media is a tool for the terrorists.”

First Amendment activists will almost certainly cry foul. But they will not be alone: This would be one of their rare moments of harmony with the U.S. intelligence community, which has used Twitter feeds of extremists to monitor their messaging for strategies, tactics, and policies. America’s spies also monitor the feeds of extremist personalities and groups to see who follows them and who sympathizes with them, with the goal of identifying potential security threats at home or abroad. In fact, Twitter has made it possible for official bodies to interact with a banned group — even if those interactions haven’t been pleasant.

So while there is no evidence as of yet Twitter has been mined by PRISM — other classified programs may exist, of course — the intelligence community exploits it in other important ways. One former official at the National Security Agency notes, “Twitter is an incredible source to learn what these groups are doing. The FBI, CIA, and NSA not only get a lot of intelligence from Twitter, but there is also a lot of manipulation going on.” Read more…

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism intelligence analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on June 8, 2013.

7
Jun

By Philip Stephens

The concept of freedom to act is as compelling as it is unrealistic

cd9b2573-711f-460a-a41c-857b303055d4.imgThe state is back. The post-1945 multilateral order is falling into disrepair. Everywhere you look, nationalism is on the march. States, established and rising, are disinterring traditional notions of national sovereignty. They want to reclaim the international system created by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. They are chasing a chimera.

For a moment, after the collapse of communism, the future belonged to a postmodern state. This state would remain the essential building block of political organisation, but would recognise shared interests. Governments would discard narrow concepts of national interest in favour of co-operative security and prosperity. Strange though it seems to say after the tumult of recent years, but the EU was seen as a model for the new international order.

There was more to this than utopian daydreaming. Globalisation has tightened the ties of economic interdependence. Threats to nations are recognisably international in character – from climate change to pandemics, from terrorism and the proliferation of unconventional weapons to mass migration. Mobile capital, cross-border supply chains and the connections of the digital age leach power from individual states. The way to recapture lost authority is to act in concert.

The mood has changed. As the rising have become risen powers they are reluctant to embrace a rules-based system – the more so since the rules were largely written by the established powers. For its part, the US is stepping back from the role of global policeman. Even postmodern Europe, where rescuing the euro demands another leap towards integration, is wrestling with tensions between the national and supranational. Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on June 6, 2013.

6
Jun

By Fareed Zakaria

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In February 1972, Richard Nixon went to China and restored Sino-U.S. relations that had been broken for 23 years. During that visit, Nixon held a series of critical meetings with China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, and they discussed the broad strategic framework that would guide bilateral relations. President Obama’s meetings with President Xi Jinping this weekend have the potential to be a similarly historic summit — but with an important caveat.

China has always played a weak hand brilliantly. When Mao Zedong and Zhou met with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, China was in the midst of economic, political and cultural chaos. Its per capita gross domestic product had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Yet Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. Today, it has tremendous assets — but it is not the world’s other superpower, and we should not treat it as such.

The United States has been accused of having a confused, contradictory foreign policy, as each administration reverses its predecessor. This is often a mischaracterization, never more so than with China policy. Since Nixon and Kissinger opened the door, U.S. foreign policy toward China has been remarkably consistent over 40 years and eight presidents. Washington has sought to integrate China into the world, economically and politically. This policy has been good for the United States, good for the world and extremely good for China.

But many of the forces that pushed the two countries together are waning. For the first two decades of relations, Washington had strategic reasons to align with Beijing and shift the balance of power against the Soviet Union. While China was in its early years of development, it desperately needed access to U.S. capital, technology and political assistance to expand its economy. Today, China is much stronger and is acting in ways — from cyberattacks to its policies in Africa — that are counter to U.S. interests and values. For its part, Washington must respond to the realities of Asia, where its historic allies are nervous about China’s rise. Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on June 5, 2013.

31
May

By Charles Krauthammer

“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises . . .”

     — Barack Obama, May 23

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Nice thought. But much as Obama would like to close his eyes, click his heels three times and declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street.

That’s what history advises: Two sides to fight it, two to end it. By surrender (World War II), by armistice (Korea and Vietnam) or when the enemy simply disappears from the field (the Cold War).

Obama says enough is enough. He doesn’t want us on “a perpetual wartime footing.” Well, the Cold War lasted 45 years. The war on terror, 12 so far. By Obama’s calculus, we should have declared the Cold War over in 1958 and left Western Europe, our Pacific allies, the entire free world to fend for itself — and consigned Eastern Europe to endless darkness.

John F. Kennedy summoned the nation to bear the burdens of the long twilight struggle. Obama, agonizing publicly about the awful burdens of command — his command, which he twice sought in election — wants out. For him and for us.

He doesn’t just want to revise and update the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which many conservatives have called for. He wants to repeal it.

He admits that the AUMF establishes the basis both in domestic and international law to conduct crucial defensive operations, such as drone strikes. Why, then, abolish the authority to do what we sometimes need to do?

Because that will make the war go away? Persuade our enemies to retire to their caves? Stop the spread of jihadism? Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on May 31, 2013

30
May

The region is falling in behind two alternative blocks: the market-led Pacific Alliance and the more statist Mercosur

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On May 23rd in the Colombian city of Cali the presidents of four Latin American countries—Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru—will sign an agreement removing tariffs on 90% of their merchandise trade. They will also agree on a timetable of no more than seven years for eliminating tariffs on the remaining 10%. They have already removed visa requirements for each other’s citizens and will proclaim their aspiration to move swiftly towards setting up a common market.

The Pacific Alliance, as the group calls itself, is “the most exciting thing going on in Latin America today”, according to Felipe Larraín, Chile’s finance minister. Some outsiders think so, too. Costa Rica and Panama want to join; Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, and his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, have said they will attend the Cali meeting as observers.

Behind the excitement is the sense that the Pacific Alliance is a hard-nosed business deal, rather than the usual gassy rhetoric of Latin American summitry. Under the leftist governments that rule in much of South America, there has been plenty of talk of regional integration, but precious little practice of it. Intra-regional trade makes up just 27% of total trade in South and Central America, compared with 63% in the European Union and 52% in Asia.

The Pacific Alliance aspires to change that. “It is based on affinity, rather than proximity,” says José Antonio García Belaunde, a former Peruvian foreign minister who was instrumental in launching the group in 2011. “It’s integration with those who are capable of doing it.” Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on May 18, 2013 (The Economist – Print Edition).

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