You can’t beat a lone terrorist — or al Qaeda for that matter — with shock and awe.

By John Arquilla


The terror bombing of the Boston Marathon is yet one more item in a bloody skein of evidence that has emerged over the past decade proving that war is now, more than ever, the province of “the few.” The destructive and disruptive power of small groups and even individuals — in the physical world as well as in cyberspace — just keeps growing. While we tend to think of this phenomenon as quite recent, perhaps just dating from 9/11, the trend actually began at the dawn of the machine age, well over a century ago. What we have seen ever since has been dichotomous conflict: big wars in which large numbers of soldiers, sailors, and airmen learned to fight in small bands and squadrons, and little wars in which each side has hunted the other as if they were roving Neolithic tribesmen. And while our gaze is drawn, again and again, to bands of terrorist and insurgent fighters, it is just as important to contemplate the power of the few in larger conflicts — such as the kind that might erupt one day, sooner or later, on the Korean Peninsula.  

A paradox of war in the modern era — a time distinguished by the mass production of advanced weapons and the ability to mobilize millions of soldiers — is that the burden of fighting in pivotal campaigns has often been borne by so few. On both sides. Winston Churchill’s tribute to the gallant handful of Royal Air Force pilots who won the Battle of Britain in 1940 — just a couple thousand, many of them Polish refugees — obscures the point that Luftwaffe attackers were similarly small in number. Another dire menace that Churchill and the Allies faced during World War II emanated from U-boats. For all the terrible threat they posed, there were never more than a couple thousand German submariners at sea at any one time. Same with the American undersea warfare campaign against Japan, which wreaked absolute havoc in the Pacific. And in the key carrier confrontation at Midway in June 1942, just a few hundred American naval aviators turned the tide of the whole war in about half an hour of furious dive bombing. As for the Japanese, the loss of a few hundred of their naval aviators in this battle had a crippling effect from which they never recovered. Again and again, in a war of many millions, the few determined the outcome. Read more…

John Arquilla is professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on April 15, 2013


By Timothy Palmer, IE Master in International Relations Candidate


In a 2004 eulogy to Ronald Reagan, while talking about the unapologetic nature both personally and professionally of the former U.S. president, Margaret Thatcher stated how “he (Reagan) never succumbed to the embarrassment some people feel about an honest expression of love of country.” Besides expressing the inherent nature of Ronnie, as she called him, this as well sums up the woman’s, dubbed the Iron Lady, approach to life and politics. No apologies, no hurt feelings (except for various British parliamentarians left in her wake), no looking back. In fact it was her who was once famously quoted as saying “you turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning”, in response to political posturing and U-turning. Margaret Thatcher was an unapologetic politician whose convictions and determination were undoubtedly driven from her firm belief that her politics were the right ones, regardless of what others thought or believed.

Her passing last week provoked a fervent debate over the style and policies of the former British Prime Minister. On the attack were pundits from the left, as well as anti-free market thinkers who were quick to point out the social missteps and secondary repercussions of Thatcherism, of which there are plenty. In her defense were conservatives from the U.S. and Europe who praised her free market policy and strong socio-economic stances. What was clear however, in the aftermath not only of her passing but also of the subsequent social media squabbles, was that Thatcherism as an ideology has not passed with her. In fact the idea and the passion from both its supporters and critics are still alive and well.

If you read political columns in the U.S. right now, you might think that traditional right-wing politics are dying. In fact in the U.S. and Europe many have been quick to point fingers and blame conservative, free-market policies for the 2008 financial crisis which spread to Europe. After all financial deregulation and limited supervision of corporate and financial policies were interlinked with some of the largest scandals in recent memory both here in Europe and back in the states, including Lehman Brothers and Barings Bank. What is also clear however, albeit not nearly as widely recognized, is that conservative methods are behind some of the more daring political measures being taken in Europe right now in order to stem the financial crisis.

Read more…


Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, interviews former Prime Minister of Poland, Jan Bielecki, on Poland’s recent national history and its place within International Organizations.

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March 2013

By Rowan Palmer, Master in International Relations Candidate


After five and a half grueling months of classes and a week of final exams and papers, the MIR trip to Brussels couldn’t have come soon enough, and promised a welcome break from classroom studies, as well as a chance to experience first hand many of the institutions and organizations about which we had been learning.

With the MIR’s focus on the European Union as a model for international organization, our trip was centered around visits to some of the EU’s institutions, as well as to NATO headquarters.  After a snowy arrival on the Thursday night, our itinerary began Friday morning with a visit to the European Economic and Social Committee, where we were given two presentations on the Committee’s work and its role within the EU, the second of which, by Charis Xirouchakis, Head of Visits and Publications Unit, involved a spirited discussion and was one of the highlights of the trip. A group dinner that evening provided the perfect lead-in to the weekend, when many students took the opportunity to do a bit of traveling and sightseeing in the area, including trips to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Amsterdam.IMG_1752

On Monday we spent the day at the European Commission, and had presentations on an assortment of topics, including the EU’s climate change policy, the current sovereign debt crisis, industrial competitiveness, and the External Action Service.  On Tuesday we changed gears with a visit to NATO headquarters; the difference between visiting a defense organization and visiting government institutions (as we had so far done on the trip) was immediately evident in the security procedures required to enter the building! Once inside, it was fascinating to gain a number of different perspectives on NATO’s changing role, including those of a policy analyst, a communications specialist, and a member of Spain’s diplomatic representation to the transatlantic alliance. That evening we were hosted by Belgium’s permanent representative to the EU, a man who has the distinction of being the only diplomat posted to an embassy in his own country!

We wrapped up the trip on Wednesday morning by visiting the European Parliament. Here, as was to be expected, things took on a more political tone as we met with several MEPs and had a chance to hear their views on some of the current “hot topics” in European politics. We were then left with time for one final meal out in Brussels, as well as a chance to make any last minute chocolate purchases before catching the airport bus, again amidst snow flurries, for our flight back to Madrid.



By Jonathan Adelman


Despite the rhetoric of the Obama administration and tougher sanctions, hard realities suggest a likely American policy of not attacking Iran but seeking to contain it.

For Iran, the benefits of nuclear weapons are significant: becoming the ninth member of the world’s exclusive nuclear club, spurring nationalist ardor at home, potentially dominating the Middle East, enhancing its leadership of the world’s neutralist bloc, offsetting the likely loss of their main Arab ally Syria and deterring an American attack. America’s desire to stop Iran, meanwhile, is constrained by many factors: withdrawal of an aircraft carrier battle fleet from the Persian Gulf, $80 billion in Iranian hard currency reserves, opposition from Russia and China, foreign efforts to help Iran evade international sanctions, American war weariness, economic malaise, Congressional hyper partisanship and the Obama policy of leading from behind.

Trying to contain a nuclear Iran avoids an unpopular military strike, regional war and harsher sanctions. And most appealing of all, containment succeeded for 40 years with the Soviet Union, culminating in its dissolution in 1991.

There is only one critical problem with the alluring temptation of containment —the Islamic Republic of Iran is no Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a global superpower, with a vast military-industrial complex and Red Army whose World War II victories helped defeat Nazi Germany. During the Cold War the Soviet Union had several thousand strategic nuclear weapons capable of destroying the United States. The Red Army dominated Eastern and much of Central Europe and threatened Western Europe.

By contrast, Iran is a second rate military and economic power. It reactivated its nuclear program in 1984 and has still not exploded its first atomic bomb. In the 1980s, even after eight years, it could not defeat Iraq, a task that the United States accomplished in three weeks in 2003. With only several hundred atomic scientists, Iran relies heavily on foreign help for its nuclear project.  It possesses a modest missile force, weak army and no modern navy. Iran lags far behind Israel, with its strong air force and 100 to 200 atomic bombs, and NATO stalwart Turkey. Iran’s $13,000 GNP/capita lags far behind the United States ($49,000), United Arab Emirates ($49,000) and Israel ($32,000). Read more…

Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

As published in www.cnn.com on April 8, 2013.

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